The ABC's of Government Contract Claims - 10 Ways to Maximize Your Chance of Success

by Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

1. Understand the Basic Contract Requirement – Every contract lawyer will begin an assessment with a very simple, fundamental question, i.e., “What does the contract say?” Your obligation is to perform to the contract; nothing more; nothing less. 

2. Identify Variances Between What the Contract Says and What You Actually Are Doing – If you are doing something other than what the contract actually says, you may be entitled to relief.

3. Ask Yourself “Why Am I Doing This?” –You cannot blame Uncle Sam for your or (generally) your suppliers’ inefficiencies and delinquencies, but there are many Government acts or omissions that might entitle you to relief, e.g., Government direction, a defective specification, an acceleration order, late or defective GFP/GFE/GFI, and Government delinquencies relating to contractually prescribed review periods. 

4. Do a Disciplined “Root Cause” Analysis – You perform these kinds of analyses in reporting on discrepancies to the Government. Require no less when analyzing a possible claim. Do not accept the easy answer, e.g., “We missed it.” If that is the response, probe – “What did you miss exactly?” “Show me where it was.” “Let me see the documentation you missed.” 

5. Notify the Contracting Officer – Tell the PCO, in writing, of the circumstance that you believe gives rise to a change. Deprive the PCO of the ability to claim, later on, “If only I had known, I would have told you to stop doing that.” 

6. Accept No Substitutes – No one but the Contracting Officer has the authority to change the contract. COTR’s, contracting specialists, Program Managers, general officers – they all love to issue orders and they will jawbone you to follow them. Don’t. Report the order to the PCO and ask the PCO to confirm the order to you in writing. 

7. Trust But Verify – This one is simple. Never act on an oral direction. Send a letter to the PCO asking for confirmation.

8. Read Your “Changes” and “Notification of Changes” Clause(s) – They impose time limits for notification of a change. Failure to comply can be overcome in many cases, but why take that chance? 

9. Use Change Order Accounting – A valid changes claim is only as good as your ability to prove quantum. Establish separate job numbers to collect the costs of the changed work. 

10. Earn Interest – An REA can linger without closure for months, and years. If there is no progress, transform the REA into a certified claim and start the accrual of interest. And remember, the statute of limitations for submission of a certified claim is six years from the date of its accrual.

And for those of you who read this far, here is your bonus eleventh tip: 

11. Read Those Unilaterally Issued Change Orders – They invariably say the work is not a change and ask you to sign. Don’t.

DISCLAIMER: 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.

© Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP | Attorney Advertising

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Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

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