VB CGC Practice Group

VB CGC Practice Group
Vandeventer Black's Construction and Government Contracts Practice Group focuses on serving our business clients in the construction industry. We currently have offices in Norfolk and Richmond, VA, the OBX and Raleigh, NC, and Hamburg, Germany. For more information about Vandeventer Black, clink on the VB logo.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Joint Check / Joint Payment Agreements

Increasingly, suppliers are requesting joint check or joint payment agreements from subcontractors and prime contractors. From the suppliers' viewpoint, they make a lot of sense because they give some assurance that payments will go directly to the supplier, even if only by a joint check. The problem, however, for higher tier subcontractors or prime contractors is that it creates a direct contractual relationship with a supplier where one would not otherwise exist. This then lead to potential liability that would not otherwise exist. While needs may dictate the use of a joint check or joint payment agreement, higher tier subcontractors / prime contractors will minimally want to incorporate terms that provide reasonable protections, including limitations of liabilities, the incorporation of lower tier contracts, including payment offset rights, and similar risk allocation provisions. One of the biggest risks to avoid is having an obligation to pay the supplier, even if there is not an obligation to pay the lower tiers, and in capping liability.  More discussions of these issues to follow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

AMEC Civil: The case that keeps on giving

AMEC Civil, LLC's contract with VDOT regarding a Route 58 project has been in ongoing litigation for many years. AMEC recovered a significant damages award from the Circuit Court, only to have much of it reversed on appeal.  Since the original judgment, the case has been going back and forth between the Virginia Court of Appeals, the Virginia Supreme Court, the Norfolk Circuit Court, and now most recently back to the Virginia Court of Appeal, which in an unpublished opinion reversed additional damages findings of the Norfolk Circuit Court, and remanded aspects of the decision back to the lower court for additional factual findings, and recalculations based on those findings ("AMEC CA2"). While the case seems destined for additional appeals, the current decision offers various insights regarding damage claims for VDOT projects. This blog will explore those in a series of posts, starting with the question of "what are actual costs?"

This question was one of the main focuses of AMEC CA2 because the VDOT specification in question expressly provides that only "actual costs" will be considered for adjustments. This was a key issue in the case because the lower court had measured damages, in part, by averaging estimated costs using varied means testified to at trial. In the earlier appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court had held that "actual costs" was a term of art, and included direct costs, like materials and wages, and indirect costs, like overhead, but did not include profit. Apply this, the Court of Appeals concluded that, other than the Blue Book, which the Virginia Supreme Court had expressly approved for calculating actual costs for the use of owned equipment, estimates were not a permissible means of establishing actual costs, and that averaging of monthly costs would not reflect actual costs, which must be proven by actual cost records, absent expert testimony otherwise.

This decision makes clear the obligation for keeping accurate records of actual costs for force account work.  More to follow in discussion about the continuing AMEC CA2 ramifications.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Best Value" Procurement? - Not for Virginia Public Sealed Bidding

With increasing regularity, various procuring agencies had been swimming in the "best value" pool for their procurements. Following the well established federal procurement practice, their solicitations included language along the lines that the procuring agency reserved the right to select "the most advantageous offer" considering such factors as experience, schedule and/or price. Such was the case for a Spotsylvania School Board procurement for janitorial services, respecting which the School Board did not make award to the lowest bidder, but instead made award to the bidder it deemed the most advantageous overall. The low bidder protested, and its protest basis was recently sustained by the Virginia Supreme Court in Professional Building Maintenance Corp. v. School Board of the County of Spotsylvania, in the court's April 20, 2012 decision.

In doing so the court noted that Virginia's public procurement act required award to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder for competitive sealed bidding. While the act does allow for competitive negotiation for certain procurements, the court noted this procurement did not qualify. The court rejected the School Board's contention that best value concepts could be utilized for competitive bids, noting that while the act does permit public bodies to "consider best value concepts when procuring goods and nonprofessional services" in Code Section 2.2-4300, the act does not provide a method of procurement in lieu of competitive sealed bidding. Therefore the court concluded that to accept the School Board's argument it would need to add language to the competitive sealed bidding code provisions as an alternative to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, which the court concluded it was not allowed to do under prior case precedent.

The court noted other concerns with the School Board's procurement too, including whether the School Board actually followed the stated terms and conditions of the invitation in process or actual evaluation; all of which resulted in the appeal being allowed to proceed to trial. There are not many procurement cases decided by the Virginia Supreme Court, and this decision is insightful on many fronts to both those soliciting and those responding to Virginia procurements. Interestingly, the court did not address any potential tie-in between "best value" and "responsibility" and whether that becomes the next battleground on this issue, or whether public bodies abandon "best value" evaluations for competitive bids remains to be seen.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Virginia Bid Protests: A quick overview

So you lost an award relating to a Virginia public procurement, and want to protest. What are the basic requirements? They are actually fairly simple, but do require prompt action. A protest must be filed with the awarding authority within ten (10) days of the award or the decision to award, whichever is earlier. There is a potential additional ten (10) day time clock if procurement related documents have been requested under the procurement code (Section 2.2-4303), if the basis or an additional basis of protest is based on that document production. The written protest must include the basis for the protest and the relief sought. The procuring agency's response is due within ten (10) days, and the protestor then has ten (10) days from receipt to appeal, or the procuring agency's decision is final. We'll look at protest bases and potential relief in other blogs.