Staking Your Claim
By: Gregory L. Shelton, Horack, Talley, Pharr & Lowndes, P.A.
Contractors dealing directly with the federal government should not be bashful when seeking money, time, or some other contractual relief from the government. The Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”) permits contractors to make claims against the government, but the claim must be stated clearly and unequivocally to give the contracting officer adequate notice of the basis and amount of the claim. Adequate notice serves four purposes: First, it permits the contracting officer to give meaningful, reasoned consideration to the claim; Second, it requires the basis of the claim to be revealed to induce settlement discussions before litigation commences; Third, it allows for adequate identification of the issues should litigation be necessary; and Fourth, it buttresses other CDA claim requirements to ensure the integrity of the overall claims process.
It is unwise to be too coy or clever when making the claim. In Northrop Grumman Computing Systems, Inc. v. U.S., Case No. 07-613C, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims recently held that a contractor that failed to disclose an assignment of certain contract rights failed to provide adequate notice. The contractor carefully drafted its claim to avoid mentioning the assignment, likely to avoid denial of the claim under the Anti-Assignment Act. The court determined that the contractor’s failure to reveal that it was sponsoring the claim of an assignee prevented the contracting officer from giving meaningful consideration “to a host of issues raised by the assignments.”
If you ask the sovereign for money, be clear, unequivocal, and thorough. If your claim does not pass muster under the CDA, sovereign immunity will bar your claim.