Conversion Claim Was Really a Claim for Tortious Breach of Contract Over Which ASBCA Possessed Jurisdiction; Appeal of AECOM Technical Services, Inc., ASBCA No. 62800

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Government’s motion to dismiss appeal is denied. The government alleged the contractor had asserted a claim for conversion and because this was a tort, the board lacked jurisdiction to consider it. The board, however, found that the contractor really asserted a claim for tortious breach of contract, not necessarily a tortious conversion. Because the claim had a contractual nexus, the board possessed jurisdiction to consider it.

Background

AECOM Technical Services had an IDIQ contract with the Army Corps of Engineers for the design and construction of energy saving projects. The Corps issued a task order to AECOM for an energy saving project at an Air Force base. AECOM submitted designs as part of the project, but the Corps informed AECOM that it had decided not to pursue the project.

AECOM submitted a claim for the costs it had incurred in developing the design. The corps denied the claim alleging it was not responsible for any costs unless it decided to exercise an option under the contract to obtain ownership of the designs.

AECOM appealed to the ASBCA. The government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, alleging (1) it never had a contract with AECOM, and (2) that AECOM’s claim was really a conversion claim, which sounded in tort, so the board could not consider it.

Legal Analysis

  • The Parties Had a Contract – Despite the Corps’ contentions, the board concluded that AECOM had set forth a non-frivolous allegation of a contract with the government. That contract could be either the IDIQ contract or the task order. AECOM’s allegations of a contract were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.
  • The Conversion Claim Was Really a Claim for Tortious Breach – AECOM alleged that government had wrongfully converted its designs. The board does not possess jurisdiction to hear a tort claim for conversion. But the board does possess jurisdiciton to hear a claim for tortious breach of contract. Here, AECOM had alleged that the government breached the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing by converting the designs. The claim was thus alleged as a tortious breach and not as a conversion. The board had jurisdiction to consider it as a contract claim.

AECOM is represented by Manju Gupta, William D. Edwards, Jonathan R. King of Ulmter & Berne LLP. The government is represented by Micheal Goodman, Karen L. King Vanek, and Margaret P. Simmons of the Army Corps of Engineers.

ASBCA - AECOM Technical Services