Contractor-Client Receives Favorable Legal Decision for Negligent Estimate Claim Versus U.S. Army

One of the attorney-authors’ clients, a Kuwait-based contractor, recently received a favorable legal decision from the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“Board”). The decision is posted here.

The Board’s decision denied a summary judgment motion by the United States Government (USG) which had sought to dismiss our client’s legal claim for negligent estimates. The decision allowed our client’s negligent estimate claim and our client’s own (pending) motion for summary judgment to proceed.

For contractors generally, the decision has expanded the types of contracts the Board recognizes to be subject to a negligent estimate claim. If you are a contractor to the USG and believe the USG’s estimates in your contract were unreasonable and financially harmed you, you should be aware of your legal rights. A contractor-rights attorney could review your particular situation and contract to see if a viable legal claim is available.

More information about our client’s case and decision is below.

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Did a Big Law Firm’s Fee Quote Stop You From Pursuing Your Rights? Seek a Smaller Firm and Creative Fee Options

Have you had a big legal dispute brewing, contacted a large law firm, and been scared off by their estimate of legal fees?  If so, you are certainly not alone.  You should not, however, let one unaffordable quote scare you off from pursuing your matter.

Instead, consider doing two things: (1) contact a different law firm, in particular a smaller law firm (also known as a “boutique” law firm) that focuses on your area of need – government contracting or otherwise- and get another quote; and (2) be creative, and ask about different types of fee arrangements.  For example, if the quoted fee that was too high was for hourly-billed legal fees, then ask a different firm whether different options are available, such as a lower hourly fee, a contingency fee, a flat fee, or a hybrid fee (mix of contingency and reduced- hourly or flat fee).

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Did Your Do-It-Yourself Fixes Get You Nothing for Your Contract Dispute? Investing in Legal Help May Get Results You Want

Before retaining us as attorneys to assist them, many of our  clients first had tried to solve their legal problems on their own. They thought they understood their contract and situation well enough to address it.  Many had hoped their communications and strategies with the contracting officer would solve the problem.

But often the contractors’ do-it-yourself methods did not work, and they were met with rejection. And many were not sure why. At that point, they decided professional help was needed.

If you have a legal dispute involving a contract or otherwise, you may be in the process of trying to fix things yourself. You may well be very good at running your business and solving problems that arise. But you cannot be an expert in everything.

If you get the sense your fixes to legal issues are not working, you may consider making an investment in an attorney. Whether that investment is worthwhile depends on several factors: (1) What’s the result you have achieved on your own?  (2) What’s the best result possible, in terms of how much money or legal penalties are available? (3) Are you sure you identified all possible means of legal leverage? (4) How much in legal fees could you expect to pay, and is an attorney willing to share risk with a reduced fee or contingency fee arrangement ? (5) What are your odds of getting a much better result with an attorney than you could on your own? (5) Is the legal fee and risk worth the likely outcome you could achieve by hiring an attorney?

The blog authors, as litigation attorneys, help most of our clients obtain a significant return on investment of their legal fees. For example, a client on a contingency fee may receive at least $2 for every $1 we receive in legal fees. The better the financial result, the better for everyone. If an attorney is willing to share some or all of the financial risk for your matter, the investment in hiring an attorney becomes more affordable.

If your do-it-yourself efforts are not bringing the results you want to achieve for your contract dispute, please consider contacting us at atty@vkvlaw.com or (+1) 202-340-1215(+1) 202-340-1215 if you want to learn more about legal representation and suggestions how you can reach the best resolution.

Where Can I Find USAID Contract and Grant Resources?

USAID announced plans to fund almost $300 million in new aid programs in Afghanistan over the next five years. This article gives readers information about how they might be eligible to participate in these and other US government programs as a grant recipient or contractor.

USAID’s website here provides a detailed review of its grant and contracting process, from project design to solicitation to award.

USAID posts its contract solicitations on the Federal Business Opportunities website, otherwise known as FedBizOpps (www.fbo.gov). USAID posts its grant opportunities on the federal grant site here (www.grants.gov).  These sites list contracting and grant opportunities for USAID, and for all of the US federal government.

On the grant and contract sites you can search for projects by country, by subject, by government agency and a variety of other filters.

Of interest to many of our readers, USAID has pages dedicated to small businesses that are new to US government grant and contract programs and are interested in partnering with USAID. On this site, USAID links to a variety of resources discussing a mentor/protégé program, subcontracting options, and a listing of grant and contract opportunities geared towards smaller companies.

If you are interested in becoming a USAID grantee or contractor, we encourage you to thoroughly read USAID’s site to learn about the opportunities that exist.

If you are a US government contractor or grant recipient who has questions about your legal rights, we offer a free initial case review. For more information about the legal services we offer contractors and grantees, please see our Legal Services page here or email us at atty@vkvlaw.com.

Considering Legal Action? Don’t Let Worries About Travel Stop You

When people are telling the attorney-authors about legal concerns involving United States laws, some say they are worried if they take legal action against an opponent, especially one in a different location from them, they will have to travel too much to fight for their case.

In reality rarely does a party have to travel to pursue their rights.  I can count on one hand the types of events that might require a party to travel.  Those events (which only could arise after a legal complaint is filed) are:

  • a deposition (which could be required in person, but can be conducted via phone if agreed);
  • mediation (a settlement conference which sometimes is mandatory, and sometimes a mandatory mediation requires in-person attendance); and
  • trial.

More often than not, cases are resolved before any of the events above occur, so the client never needs to travel.  Most of the clients I have represented have not traveled at all by the time their cases resolved.  Most of my clients’ cases have resolved via settlements (contracts agreeing to financial terms, closing of the legal matters, etc.).  Settlement is often a better option than litigating through trial or thereafter.

So even those matters that involve lawsuits that are filed and pursued for months or years will usually only involve one to two instances of travel at most. When a given client of mine is scheduled for a deposition or mediation and does not want to travel, I explore if alternatives are possible, such as a phone appearance.  Also, if a client of mine who is outside of the United States has concerns about being able to enter or re-enter the U.S. to pursue legal rights, there are usually options available to resolve those concerns (e.g. phone appearances, visas for legal matters, etc.).

The bottom line is you should not assume frequent travel, or any travel, will be required if you retain an attorney and explore legal options.  The attorney will discuss with you what events, if any, are likely to occur that could require travel. You should not let assumptions or fears about travel stop you from exploring your possible legal rights or legal action.

Did You Find Improprieties in the Contract Bidding or Award Process? Consider (Quickly) a Protest

The attorney-authors receive inquiries from contractors for the United States Government (USG) who complain a contract was awarded to a competitor unfairly.  Some contractors think there is nothing they can do about an unfair award by the USG.  That is wrong.  If you lost a contract award and believe the bidding process or award was unfair or may have violated the law, you can protest.

This article describes what a protest involves and the short deadlines involved with a protest– often, a 10-day deadline.  If you are potentially interested in a protest, read on, and make a prompt decision whether you will take action.

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Change In Your Scope of Work (SOW)? Know What Costs You Can Seek in Your Request for Equitable Adjustment (REA)

Contractors for the United States Government (USG) sometimes encounter unforeseen circumstances that cause major obstructions and/or costs associated with their projects.  For example, maybe you have contracted for USG construction work, and half way through laying the foundation on the building, the Contracting Officer changes the type of cement he wants you to use. Or, maybe the Contracting Office suddenly shut down your access to the site for a month, leaving you and your subcontractors and vendors on standby and your materials on the site deteriorating beyond use. Or, maybe, you are starting to clear an area for a parking lot for the building, and you discover the site has landmines that neither you or the USG knew about.

Such incidents cause a contractor much concern because they create additional work that will cost you more money and delay your project delivery schedule.

If you find yourself in such a situation with a USG contract, you do not need to just accept the additional work and cost. Instead, you can ask for more money and/or time to complete the new or additional work. The process for asking for this additional money or time is called a Request for Equitable Adjustment (REA).  If you ask the USG Contracting Officer for an REA, the USG may agree to modify the contract to give you more time to do the work and to pay you more money for the additional cost related to the new or additional work.

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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.

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Threatening You Will Hire An Attorney? There are Better Ways to Resolve Your Dispute

Are you in the middle of a dispute with a large organization, such as an agency of the U.S. government, or a prime contractor?  Is that party not being reasonable in the dispute, and causing you frustration?  If so, you may feel tempted to threaten you will get an attorney if your dispute is not resolved how you want.

Please know that making this threat– that you may get an attorney, rather than actually having one already representing you– is usually a bad idea.  Rarely does a large entity react to the threat the way you would want them to (i.e. rarely do they back down, give you what you want, etc.).   The large entity may react to an attorney threat in ways that make the situation worse for you.

Here are common negative reactions a large organization could make in response to an attorney threat:

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Subcontractor Files Lawsuit Against Parsons for Delay of Settlement Payment

The attorney-authors represent a subcontractor that recently filed a lawsuit against Parsons Global Services Inc.  and other Parsons entities (collectively referred to here as “Parsons”) in the Central District of California Federal Court.  Parsons was a primary contractor to the United States Government (USG) for construction work in Iraq.

The subcontractor that filed the lawsuit, Al-Marzoog Contracting Company (based in Iraq), alleges that Parsons unreasonably delayed settlement payments.  Al-Marzoog and Parsons had agreed to the settlement amounts years ago, but to date, Parsons has not paid Al-Marzoog, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges Parsons has claimed it will not pay Al-Marzoog until the USG reviews the construction work matters and pays Parsons.  The lawsuit alleges that this “pay-when-paid” arrangement is unlawful because an unreasonable amount of time (years) has passed without payment.

For more details about the lawsuit, you can review the Complaint, posted below.

If you have a subcontractor settlement in which payment has been unreasonably delayed, please feel free to contact the blog-author attorney Vonda K. Vandaveer at vonda@vkvlaw.com or +1-202-340-1215.

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