Where Can You File a Legal Complaint for Your Contracting Dispute?

If you are a contractor or subcontractor and have a dispute involving a United States Government (USG) project, you may be wondering what Court or other legal forum would be the proper place to bring a dispute or file a complaint.  Unfortunately, there is no quick answer, and the potential forum(s) for a legal complaint will depend on the contract, laws and factual circumstances involved.  This article will describe some of those factors.  Keep this in mind: there are usually some legal options and potential forums available for a USG- related contract dispute.  And if you are a contractor based outside the United States and your legal forum(s) for disputes are limited to Courts or agencies within the United States, you can still pursue your rights within a U.S.-based forum effectively and efficiently, without excessive travel, etc.

Prime Contractor

If you are a prime contractor to the USG, then the law– specifically, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)– will determine the proper forums for your dispute.  The FAR provides that a prime contractor can bring disputes to a particular agency of the USG (depending on who your contract is with), or to a Federal Court within the United States.  An attorney can help you determine in which specific agency or Court you could pursue your dispute, and advise you about the proper procedure and rules to follow within that forum.

Subcontractor

If you are a subcontractor for a USG project, then your contract with the prime contractor may determine what legal forum within which a legal complaint should be or must be filed.  A contract usually requires that legal complaints relating to the contract must be filed within a particular State court, or must be filed in an arbitration forum.

You should not assume, however, that a forum stated in a contract is the only forum where a dispute can be heard.  Sometimes there are exceptions or requirements outside the language of the contract. For example, sometimes a contract will indicate that legal complaints should be filed with a particular State court, but another law (outside the contract) may provide that a Federal Court is an available forum and/or required forum for determining disputes related to that contract. An attorney can advise you whether you have options on where to file your complaint and how you should proceed.

Conclusion

You can review FAR law and/or your contract to learn about possible forums for a legal dispute, but you should not assume your own review and conclusions will be correct or will identify all options.  An attorney can help you sort out any possible legal forum(s) for a dispute and what forums or options of those available are the best for resolving your dispute.  The attorney-authors have represented clients who live outside the United States during long-pending legal disputes within U.S. forums (e.g. Federal Courts and agencies), and those clients have successfully pursued their rights.

If you have a dispute with the U.S. Government or one of its prime contractors and want to learn more about your rights and options, please contact the blog-author attorney Vonda K. Vandaveer at vonda@vkvlaw.com or +1-202-340-1215. There is no fee for initial communication about your matter.

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