United States: Court Of Federal Claims Asserts Jurisdiction Over OTA Claim

Last Updated: July 17 2017
Article by Locke Bell

The Court of Federal Claims held for the first time last Friday that damages were available for the Government's alleged breach of an other transaction agreement ("OTA"), declining to dismiss a contractor's $47 million claim against the Government for breach of a Space Act Agreement OTA and a related licensing agreement.  Although the court reached the correct decision in Spectre Corporation v. United States, No. 16-932C (Fed. Cl. June 30, 2017), its short opinion, focused only on the arguments briefed by the parties, deprives contractors of ringing precedent.

An OTA may be defined generally as a transaction that is not a procurement contract, grant, or cooperative agreement, into which only select agencies can enter.  Some OTAs take the form of an assistance agreement, akin to a grant or cooperative agreement, while others appear to be more similar to a standard procurement contract.  Classification as an OTA rather than a procurement contract determines many rights and obligations of both parties, not least of which is the inability of the nongovernmental party to bring a claim for damages in the court or the boards of contract appeals under the Contract Disputes Act, a remedy only available under procurement contracts.  Some in the Government and industry, including the Department of Defense in recent guidance, have surmised that the court may hear claims for damages under OTAs pursuant to the court's Tucker Act jurisdiction, which permits the court to render judgment on any claim based on "any express or implied contract with the United States."  28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1).  With Spectre, this hypothesis is confirmed, at least this once, without any mention of doubt.

In fact, rather than address the question of whether the OTA at issue in Spectre — a fully reimbursable Space Act Agreement issued by NASA to Spectre Corporation to produce silicon-carbide-based pressure sensors according to NASA patents and determine their suitability for the commercial market — constitutes an "express or implied contract," the court assumes it does out of the gate.  The court refers to the agreement as a contract throughout its opinion, yet appropriately omits any citation to the Contract Disputes Act, recognizing that the agreement, while a "contract" for the purposes of the Tucker Act, is not a procurement contract for the purposes of the Contract Disputes Act.  The court takes for granted that the OTA is a contract, perhaps, because the parties do so themselves.  In briefing the Government's motion to dismiss, neither party addressed whether Spectre's Space Act Agreement in particular, or OTAs more generally, should be considered an express or implied contract subject to the court's Tucker Act jurisdiction.

This oversight by the parties and the court is forgivable; Spectre's Space Act Agreement most certainly was a contract, as many OTAs are.  As the Federal Circuit noted in Trauma Service Group v. United States, "[A]ny agreement can be a contract within the meaning of the Tucker Act, provided that it meets the requirements for a contract with the Government, specifically:  mutual intent to contract including an offer and acceptance, consideration, and a Government representative who had actual authority to bind the Government." 104 F.3d 1321, 1326 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (Rader, J., dictum).  These factors were undisputed in Spectre.  Further, the idea that an agreement other than a procurement contract may be subject to the court's claims jurisdiction under the Tucker Act is nothing new.  See Penn. Dep't of Pub. Welfare v. United States, 48 Fed. Cl. 785, 790 (2001) (listing cases where grant agreements were held to be contracts within Tucker Act jurisdiction).

Yet, the Court of Federal Claims' and the Federal Circuit's lexicology under the Tucker Act is inconsistent when they examine bid protest jurisdiction, creating confusion.  Compare 28 U.S.C. § 1491(b)(1) (providing jurisdiction to render judgment on objections to solicitations for "a proposed contract" or the award of "a contract") with Hymas v. United States, 810 F.3d 1312, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2016) ("As previously observed, the Claims Court's bid protest jurisdiction under [the Tucker Act] speaks exclusively to procurement solicitations and contracts." (internal quotations omitted)).  It would have been prudent for the Court of Federal Claims to acknowledge in Spectre that different meanings of the word "contract" exist within the Tucker Act, and to hold explicitly that OTAs may constitute contracts, at least for the purposes of the court's claims jurisdiction.

Despite the court's failure to do so, it should suffice for contractors to know that there now is direct precedent to bring a claim for breach damages against the Government under an OTA.  Of course, actually recovering these damages is another matter entirely — Spectre has claimed over $47 million in damages resulting from the Government's alleged breach, including $215,000 Spectre paid to NASA under the Space Act Agreement, $2 million in additional funds it invested in a related grant project with the State of Ohio, and $45 million in anticipated profits. It will be interesting to see how these lofty damages claims fare as the case proceeds.

Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Morrison & Foerster LLP. All rights reserved

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Locke Bell
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions