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In Tolliver Group, Inc v. U.S. (Jan. 22, 2020), the Court of Federal Claims granted summary judgment in favor of a contractor who sought reimbursement of legal fees incurred in successfully defending against a False Claims Act (FCA) suit filed by a relator. The qui tam action arose from a defect in the original contract—the government was contractually obligated to provide certain technical data that it could not provide and the contractor was required to certify that its performance was in compliance with the technical data.

After the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the FCA suit, the contractor submitted a claim to recover a portion of its legal fees, which the contracting officer denied. The Court of Federal Claims ruled in favor of the contractor under the Spearin doctrine, which provides that if the government supplies defective specifications, then a contractor may recover costs flowing from the government’s breach of the implied warranty that satisfactory performance will result from adherence to the contract specifications. One exception to the Spearin doctrine is that the warranty does not extend to third-party claims. However, the court held that a qui tam suit is not an excepted third-party claim, because “in qui tam litigation ‘it is the government, not the individual relator, who is the real plaintiff in the suit.’” The Tolliver decision illuminates a new basis for recovery of litigation costs after defending against qui tam actions.

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Photo of Steve McBrady Steve McBrady

Steve McBrady is a partner and co-chair of Crowell & Moring’s Government Contracts Group. He also serves as a member of the firm’s Finance and Strategic Growth Committees, where he has played a leading role in expanding client service offerings throughout the U.S.…

Steve McBrady is a partner and co-chair of Crowell & Moring’s Government Contracts Group. He also serves as a member of the firm’s Finance and Strategic Growth Committees, where he has played a leading role in expanding client service offerings throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

In recent years, Steve has received the National Law Journal’s “Winning Litigator” award as a lawyer who has “tackled some of the most widely watched cases of the year,” as well as the “D.C. Trailblazer” award, recognizing lawyers who have “made significant marks on the practice.” In 2018, he was named “Government Contracts MVP” by Law360.

Photo of J. Chris Haile J. Chris Haile

J. Chris Haile is a partner at Crowell & Moring with extensive experience in government procurement law. Mr. Haile litigates disputes and counsels clients in a broad range of government contract matters, with particular emphasis on the resolution of contract disputes. For example…

J. Chris Haile is a partner at Crowell & Moring with extensive experience in government procurement law. Mr. Haile litigates disputes and counsels clients in a broad range of government contract matters, with particular emphasis on the resolution of contract disputes. For example, Mr. Haile has represented clients in matters involving the government’s breach of contract, claims for contract changes, termination for default, termination for convenience, Truth in Negotiations Act (TINA) compliance and defective pricing, commercial-item procurement, contract negotiations, and bid protests. He also represents clients in other related matters, such as investigations and audits by government agencies or inspectors general (IGs), False Claims Act / qui tam relator suits, and disclosures to the U.S. Government.

Photo of Nicole Owren-Wiest Nicole Owren-Wiest

Nicole Owren-Wiest is a partner and member of the Steering Committee of Crowell & Moring’s Government Contracts Group in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Nicole is nationally ranked by Chambers USA in Government Contracts and a recognized leader in two of the most…

Nicole Owren-Wiest is a partner and member of the Steering Committee of Crowell & Moring’s Government Contracts Group in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Nicole is nationally ranked by Chambers USA in Government Contracts and a recognized leader in two of the most complex areas in government contracting: accounting, cost, and pricing, and intellectual property/data rights. With over 20 years’ experience, Nicole has a broad counseling and dispute-resolution practice and leads the Group’s cost accounting practice, which focuses on helping clients navigate the government’s complex cost and pricing rules, including the FAR Part 31 cost principles, the Cost Accounting Standards (CAS), and Truth in Negotiations Act/Truthful Cost or Pricing Data (defective pricing).

Photo of Skye Mathieson Skye Mathieson

Skye Mathieson is a counsel in the Government Contracts Group in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office. He works with and advises clients from diverse industries on a wide array of matters, including contract performance disputes (CDA claims and equitable adjustments), cost allowability…

Skye Mathieson is a counsel in the Government Contracts Group in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office. He works with and advises clients from diverse industries on a wide array of matters, including contract performance disputes (CDA claims and equitable adjustments), cost allowability issues, defective pricing, fiscal law questions, prime-sub disputes, bid protests, internal investigations, and responding to DCAA audits. Prior to joining Crowell & Moring, Skye spent several years as a trial attorney at the procurement litigation division of the Air Force Headquarters for Legal Operations, where he pioneered the seminal “Laguna Defense” that is now widely raised and litigated at the Boards of Contract Appeals.

Photo of Michelle Coleman Michelle Coleman

Michelle D. Coleman is a counsel in the Government Contracts Group in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office. Michelle advises clients from diverse industries in connection with contract disputes and other government contract matters, including Contract Disputes Act (CDA) claims and requests for…

Michelle D. Coleman is a counsel in the Government Contracts Group in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office. Michelle advises clients from diverse industries in connection with contract disputes and other government contract matters, including Contract Disputes Act (CDA) claims and requests for equitable adjustments, fiscal law questions, prime-sub disputes, and bid protests.

Photo of John Nakoneczny John Nakoneczny

John Nakoneczny is an associate in the Government Contracts Group in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office.

John represents and counsels contractors from diverse industries on contract disputes and other government contract matters. Prior to joining Crowell & Moring, he clerked at the…

John Nakoneczny is an associate in the Government Contracts Group in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office.

John represents and counsels contractors from diverse industries on contract disputes and other government contract matters. Prior to joining Crowell & Moring, he clerked at the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, where he supported its judges in resolving and mediating appeals under the Contract Disputes Act. John earned his J.D. from The George Washington University Law School, where he was the president of the Government Contracts Student Association and on the Federal Circuit Bar Journal. While in law school, John served as a legal intern at the U.S. General Services Administration and the Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division. Upon graduation, John was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award.