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Govt. Improperly Interpreted Contract's Personnel Requirements

Thursday, July 27, 2017 05:11 am

 

Contract Interpretation

Idaho Stage LLC v. U.S., 2017 U.S. Ct. Fed. Cl. No. 16-548C (May 2, 2017)

A contractor opted to save money by assigning both superintendent and safety/health officer duties to the same person. The government argued that option was not allowed---but the contract said otherwise.

Idaho Stage, LLC (Idaho Stage) entered into a $4-million task order contract with the Department of the Navy to demolish, repair, renovate, and construct facilities at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington State. The contract called for both a project superintendent and a Site Safety and Health Officer (SSHO). In its bid, Idaho Stage assumed one person could fulfill both roles and priced the project accordingly. Only after contract award, when Idaho Stage submitted a question for information, did it learn that the Navy believed the project superintendent and the SSHO could not be the same person. Idaho Stage submitted an equitable adjustment claim seeking $155,713 to hire a separate, full-time SSHO. The Navy denied the request, and Idaho Stage filed a complaint in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

In this action, the government seeks to bar Idaho Stage from advancing its one-person argument at trial "because such evidence or argument is precluded by the plain language of the contract and because the plaintiff had failed to inquire about the issue prior to the proposal deadline." The court refused to grant the motion in limine.

The Navy first pointed to the plain language of the contract. It claimed that the contract required the SSHO to be "full time" and, thus, one person could not perform that function as well as another job. Further, Section 1.6.1.1 of the contract required Idaho Stage to provide "a Safety oversight team that includes a minimum of one (1) person at each project site to function as the [SSHO]." That minimum requirement meant that the SSHO couldn't be one-half or part[...]

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