For general contractors working in Virginia, 2023 marks the end of one of the more prolific contractual rights available—the pay-if-paid defense. Until now, pay-if-paid clauses were a valid means of shifting to subcontractors the risk of owner insolvency or wrongful withholding. In the spirit of freedom of contract, Virginia courts historically held that unambiguous language rendering owner payment a condition precedent to the contractor’s duty to pay subcontractors was enforceable. Not any more. Under the new statutory regime, contractors must pay subcontractors regardless of whether the owner has timely made payment to them. Notably, however, contractors retain general withholding rights arising out of subcontractor default and, on private projects, have been afforded a new 60-day pay period in which the owner is obligated to deliver progress payment or notify them of withholding.
In Lodge Construction, Inc. v. United States, the US Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) prefaced its 46-page opinion by stating: “This case should serve as a cautionary tale to government contractors.” Our ears perk up any time we read that kind of admonition in a published decision. The Lodge holding is, indeed, loaded with lessons on what to do, and what not to do, when presenting Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”) claims to the government. In particular, federal construction contractors and their performance bond sureties should take heed of the court’s holding in this highly-illustrative fraud case.
Background of the case
In 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers (“Government”) awarded Lodge Construction (“Lodge”) a fixed-price contract to rehabilitate a levee in Florida. To accommodate subsurface work, Lodge designed and constructed a temporary cofferdam based on a geotechnical site inspection and analysis furnished by the Government. The Government accepted Lodge’s final cofferdam design in July 2011. In March 2012, however, water breached two sections of the cofferdam’s sheet pile wall, after which the Government retroactively disapproved of Lodge’s cofferdam design. The Government requested that Lodge submit a new sheet pile design by May 29, 2012.
Continue Reading Fraud and Forfeiture: Cautionary Tales of a Construction Claim Gone Wrong
On May 3, Seyfarth attorneys Teddie Arnold and Anthony LaPlaca are presenting a 1-day session on Government Contract Compliance as part of the Federal Publications Seminars’ Training Academy in La Jolla, California. Seyfarth attorneys Joe Dyer, Stephanie Magnell, and Bret Marfut will also be presenting remotely.
A substantive compliance program can reduce the chances that…
While most federal contractors are eminently familiar with the False Claims Act (“FCA”)—government’s most potent weapons for prosecuting false claims—the anti-fraud provision of the Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”) does not receive nearly as much attention in the headlines. CDA anti-fraud cases are rarer than FCA cases for a couple reasons. First, the government’s remedies under the CDA pale in comparison to the robust deterrents available under the FCA, which include five-figure fines (between $11,000 and $22,000 per claim) and potential treble damages. Second, the government is limited to enforcing FCA fraud claims in the federal court system, which complicates matters when the government seeks to assert FCA counterclaims as leverage in cases pending in the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals or the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. Thus, case law addressing CDA anti-fraud claims is sparse; indeed the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has never issued a published opinion discussing such claims. Last month, however, emerged an anti-fraud decision in the US Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) that may eventually find itself worthy of higher-level scrutiny.
Continue Reading US Court of Federal Claims Clarifies the Statute of Limitations for CDA Anti-Fraud Claims
Executive Order 14005
Not even one week into the Biden Administration’s tenure, Buy American rules are yet again taking center stage as a fundamental policy objective. On January 25, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14005 entitled “Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers,” which sets forth the new Administration’s policy of utilizing the federal procurement process to maximize the use of goods, products, and materials that are US-origin. Executive Order 14005 takes aim at overhauling “Made in America Laws,” which it defines broadly as inclusive of all statutes, regulations, rules, and Executive Orders relating to federal financial assistance awards or federal procurement—known interchangeably as Buy America or Buy American rules—which provide a preference for purchase of domestic goods and materials that are US-origin. But unlike Executive Order 13788 issued by the Trump Administration making changes to Buy America rules, President Biden’s Executive Order 14005 does not make any immediate changes to those rules. Rather, it calls for a review of existing laws and implementing rules. That review, however, and what proposed changes in existing laws comes out of that review, could be significant.
Continue Reading Biden Administration Issues Executive Order 14005 Aimed at Strengthening Made in America Laws
The 2020 edition of The Legal 500 United States recommends Seyfarth Shaw’s Construction group as one of the best in the country. Nationally, our Construction practice earned Top Tier, and our Government Contracts practice earned Tier 3.
Based on feedback from corporate counsel, Seyfarth partner Bennett Greenberg was ranked in the editorial’s “Hall of Fame,”…
Force Majeure, Commercial Impracticability, and Frustration of Purpose
The outbreak of COVID-19 has been one of the most disruptive events to the global economy in recent memory. Businesses across every sector of the economy are scrambling to determine the legal repercussions of government travel restrictions, labor shortages, supply chain interruptions, financing impacts, and market price…
For projects that involve excavation or foundation work, even the most diligent pre-bid site survey may not fully inform the contractor of what conditions to expect below the surface. The risks of encountering unforeseen subsurface conditions are so high that, rather than encouraging bidders to include large contingencies in their proposals, construction lawyers have drafted a special clause—the Differing Site Conditions clause. The purpose of the Differing Site Conditions clause is to allocate the risk for conflicting, inaccurate, or incomplete pre-bid information furnished by the project owner. While the Differing Site Conditions Clause should, in theory, be a pile driver’s closest ally, recent cases interpreting this clause highlight some of the challenges to prosecuting claims under this provision.
Continue Reading What Lies Beneath (And Who Pays for It?): Common Issues Arising Under the Differing Site Conditions Clause
On October 23–24, 2019, Seyfarth attorneys Teddie Arnold, Joe Dyer, and Anthony LaPlaca will be presenting the Seyfarth Shaw Government Contracts Handbook at a 2-day seminar in Sterling, Virginia. This presentation will educate attendees on various components of federal government contracting, including Congressional oversight initiatives, procurement and formation issues, strategies for self-governance and compliance, claims…
Congress enacted the Contract Disputes Act of 1978 (CDA) to “provide a fair, balanced, and comprehensive statutory system of legal and administrative remedies in resolving government contract claims.” But for many involved in public construction projects, the CDA does not always feel like a fair or comprehensive scheme for resolving disputes caused by the acts or omissions of the Government. In particular, subcontractors and suppliers are barred by principles of sovereign immunity from suing procuring agencies directly where Government representatives impact, delay, or increase the cost of the work. Because subcontractors and suppliers lack privity with the agency, their recourse for Government interference is limited to “pass-through” or “sponsored” claims, which hinge on the general contractor’s willingness to take up the torch on their behalf. …
Continue Reading On the Effective Use of Liquidating Agreements