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In Creative Management Services, LLC, dba MC-2 v. U.S. (Feb. 26, 2021), the Federal Circuit affirmed a Court of Federal Claims decision dismissing a contractor’s appeal of the government’s Contract Disputes Act (CDA) claim as untimely, holding that the contractor appealed more than 12 months after receiving a contracting officer’s (CO) final decision. On appeal, the contractor alleged that the final decision was not a valid claim because it did not state a “sum certain” as required by the CDA, and this deficiency meant that the 12-month appeal period had not started to run.

The contractor was awarded a General Services Administration (GSA) task order to provide marketing and logistical support for an annual GSA conference, and was required to keep the revenue it collected for the conference in a trust account. When GSA canceled the conference in the fourth year and asked the contractor to return all remaining money in the trust account, the contractor refused and submitted a termination for convenience proposal to GSA. GSA subsequently issued two letters to the contractor demanding an accounting of the trust account and all money that remained in it. The CO then issued a final decision on the contractor’s termination proposal and on GSA’s claim to the remaining funds in the trust account, without providing a dollar amount. The contractor filed suit three years after the final decision was issued, challenging the government’s claim to the trust account funds.

The Federal Circuit agreed with the Court of Federal Claims that the CO’s final decision was valid and provided the contractor with adequate notice of the government’s claim, thus starting the statute of limitations clock. Notably, the Court held that a CDA claim need not identify a “precise” monetary amount, and that there is no “rule” that qualifying terms such as “nearly” or “approximately” cannot be a sum certain as long as the amount is readily ascertainable. Here, despite GSA’s use of the term “approximately” to describe its claimed amount from the trust account, the contractor knew (or could easily ascertain) the balance of the trust account and knew the value of its termination settlement costs, and could therefore calculate the amount owed to the government. This decision is a good reminder regarding the importance of timely appealing final decisions.

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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 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 Charles Baek Charles Baek

Charles Baek is a counsel in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office, where he practices in the Government Contracts Group.

Charles represents government contractors in both litigation and counseling matters. His practice focuses on contract claims/disputes under the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), litigation…

Charles Baek is a counsel in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office, where he practices in the Government Contracts Group.

Charles represents government contractors in both litigation and counseling matters. His practice focuses on contract claims/disputes under the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), litigation before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA), federal regulatory and ethics compliance and due diligence, bid protests before the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and False Claims Act (FCA) investigations. His practice also includes state contracting due diligence and litigation before the Court of Federal Claims.

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 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 Catherine Shames Catherine Shames

Catherine O. Shames is an associate in the Washington, D.C. office of Crowell & Moring, where she is a member of the firm’s Government Contracts Group.

Catherine’s government contracts practice focuses on contract claims/disputes under the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), prime-sub disputes, transactional…

Catherine O. Shames is an associate in the Washington, D.C. office of Crowell & Moring, where she is a member of the firm’s Government Contracts Group.

Catherine’s government contracts practice focuses on contract claims/disputes under the Contract Disputes Act (CDA), prime-sub disputes, transactional due diligence, internal investigations, and disclosures under the Mandatory Disclosure Rule. She also assists contractors with cost allowability issues and responding to DCAA audits.