klublu | Shutterstock

The contractor stated a sum certain in the claim submitted to the agency. But the contractor did not state a sum in the notice of appeal and complaint filed with the CBCA. The government moved to dismiss the appeal. The board denied the government’s motion. The FAR only requires a sum certain in the claim, not the notice of appeal. 

FedResults, Inc. v. Department of the Interior, CBCA 7966 
  • Claim – The contractor submitted a claim on behalf of its subcontractor. The contractor alleged the government’s use of the subcontractor’s software exceeded the scope of the software license. The claim alleged $5.7 million in damages. The government denied the claim. 
  • Appeal – The contractor appealed to the CBCA. The contractor asked the board to treat the notice of appeal as the company’s complaint. But the notice of appeal did not state a sum certain. What’s more the contractor had attached a different final decision from a different claim to the notice. The government moved to dismiss. 
  • Sum Certain – The government said the board should dismiss because the notice of appeal, which was the complaint, did not state a sum certain. The board, however, reasoned the FAR only requires a contractor to include a sum certain in the claim, not the notice of appeal. The board’s authority to entertain an appeal is based on the adequacy of the underlying claim. Here, the claim contained a sum certain. 
  • Severin Doctrine – Under the Severin doctrine, a prime contractor submitting a pass-through claim on behalf of its subcontractor can only recover if it has paid or will be liable for the subcontractor’s damages. The government alleged the contractor in this case was not liable to its subcontractor. But to prove this allegation, the government asked the board to consider documents outside the pleadings. The board rejected this argument. The government had moved to dismiss based on the pleadings. The board refused to consider any documents outside the pleadings. 
  • Government Representation – The appeal arose from a task order issued by the Department of Interior. But the SBA was the actual user of the software under an intergovernmental agreement. Consequently, SBA attorneys had appeared in the appeal. The board found the SBA was not a respondent in this case. The claim was submitted to Interior, and Interior issued the final decision. SBA was not representing Interior’s interests. Nevertheless, the board allowed the SBA attorneys to appear in a limited manner to assist in the development of the appeal. 

The contractor is represented by William A. Shook of The Law Offices of William A. Shook, PLLC and by Mary Pat Buckenmeyer of Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig. The government is represented by Brian A. Quint and Robert D. Banfield of the Department of the Interior, and by Meaghan K. Guerzon and Daniel Murphy of the Small Business Administration. 

–Case summary by Craig LaChance, Editor in Chief