BURNSIDE-OTT AVIATION TRAINING CENTER v. U.S. No. 92-5034.
985 F.2d 1574 (1993)
BURNSIDE-OTT AVIATION TRAINING CENTER, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee.
United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.
February 17, 1993.
Deborah A. Bynum, Atty., Commercial Litigation Branch, Dept. of Justice, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellee. With her on the brief were Stuart M. Gerson, Asst. Atty. Gen., David M. Cohen, Director and Sharon Y. Eubanks, Asst. Director.
Before RICH, MICHEL, and RADER, Circuit Judges.
MICHEL, Circuit Judge.
Burnside-Ott Aviation Training Center, Inc. (Burnside-Ott) brought suit in the United States Claims Court (now the United States Court of Federal Claims) under the Contract Disputes Act of 1978 (CDA) claiming entitlement to additional compensation for services performed under a contract with the Navy as a result of having to reclassify its technician employees to the higher paid classification of aircraft workers. Burnside-Ott claimed entitlement under five alternative theories: the Price Adjustment Clause (Count I), the Changes Clause (Count II), breach of contract (Count III), equitable estoppel (Count IV), and mutual mistake (Count V).
The Claims Court dismissed Counts I-III for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the claims arose exclusively out of the labor standards provisions of the contract which require resolution of any disputes by the Department of Labor (DOL). Burnside-Ott Aviation Training Ctr. v. United States, 24 Cl.Ct. 553, 561, 562, 563 (1991). Because Counts I-III do not arise exclusively out of the labor standard provisions of the contract, we reverse as to those counts. Moreover, that portion of the Claims Court's decision that, despite the court having found no jurisdiction, nevertheless discussed and decided the merits of Counts I-III, is vacated.
The Claims Court granted summary judgment in favor of the United States on Counts IV and V, concluding that Burnside-Ott could not create a genuine issue of material fact on any issue that would entitle it to prevail because the claims were barred as a matter of law. Id. at 565, 569. Because Burnside-Ott's equitable estoppel and mutual mistake claims were not barred as a matter of law and because Burnside-Ott was not given an adequate opportunity to discover evidence which might have shown a genuine issue of material fact with respect to those counts, we vacate as to Counts IV and V. The case is remanded for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.
A. Facts Leading to Suit
In 1981, the Navy contracted (Contract I) with Burnside-Ott for helicopter maintenance services at Whiting Field Naval Air Station, Florida. Wage Determination 81-77 (WD 81-77),
In 1984, the Navy contracted (Contract II) with Dynalectron Corp. for the same services at Whiting. This contract incorporated the latest WD 81-77 (Rev. 5), which included wage classifications for both aircraft workers and technicians.
Later in 1984, in anticipation of entering into a third contract for the same services, the Navy submitted to the DOL a "Notice of Intention to Make a Service Contract" ("Form 98-A" or "SP 98"). In that form, the Navy was required to list the type of labor classifications that it believed would be necessary to perform the contract. The Navy did not include technicians on the list. 24 Cl.Ct. at 555.
Before the DOL issued its ruling on the conformance request, the NAVY submitted another Form 98-A to the DOL in preparing to award the first option year of Contract III. In that form, the Navy again did not include a classification for technicians. On October 1, 1986, the DOL issued new wage determinations, WD 81-1143 and WD 85-1248, which increased the wages for all classifications of employees and did not include a labor classification for technicians. These new wage determinations replaced WD 81-77 (Rev. 6) and were incorporated into Contract III (Modification 20). Modification 20 became effective at the start of the first option year of Contract III, i.e., on October 1, 1986.
On December 15, 1986, the DOL rejected Burnside-Ott's conformance request and ordered Burnside-Ott to reclassify its technicians as higher paid aircraft workers for the base year of the contract. On May 28, 1987, the Navy submitted a request for review and reconsideration of the DOL's December 15, 1986 ruling. The Wage and Hour Division of the DOL denied the petition. On February 5, 1988, Burnside-Ott petitioned for a formal review of the Wage and Hour Division's ruling. On January 10, 1989, the Deputy Secretary of Labor upheld the prior DOL decisions, relying in part on the Form 98-A submitted by the Navy.
Upon receiving the DOL's final decision, Burnside-Ott paid the employees that it had hired as technicians the higher rate required for aircraft workers. Because of the DOL ruling and Modification 20, Burnside-Ott paid a correspondingly higher rate both for the base year of the contract and for the first option year of the contract. On August 23, 1989, Burnside-Ott submitted a claim to the contracting officer for an equitable adjustment, seeking reimbursement for its increased costs. The contracting officer denied the claim on November 9, 1989. On October 25, 1990,
B. Proceedings Before the Claims Court
In the Claims Court, Burnside-Ott based its claim for relief on five alternative bases: (1) the Price Adjustment Clause of the contract, which provides that the contractor is entitled to a price adjustment for all increased wage costs resulting from an increased wage determination (Count I), (2) the Changes Clause of the contract, which provides for an equitable adjustment to compensate for a change in the services to be performed (Count II), (3) breach of contract based on the Changes Clause of the contract because the change under the contract allegedly so fundamentally altered the undertakings of the parties that it constituted a breach (Count III), (4) equitable estoppel based on the Navy's conduct, verbal
On April 12, 1991, prior to the initiation of discovery by either party, the United States filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The government attached documents in support of its motion, and apparently in anticipation of the court's treatment of the motion as a motion for summary judgment under RUSCC 12(b), the government noted its objection to such treatment on the jurisdictional question. On May 13, 1991, Burnside-Ott filed its Opposition to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, in which it also specifically objected to the conversion of the government's motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. The Claims Court conducted a teleconference on June 4, 1991, in which it informed the parties that it would treat the government's motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment.
On June 4, 1991, the Claims Court issued an order allowing Burnside-Ott 30 days from the date of the order "to conduct discovery limited to that which is necessary to respond to defendant's motion for summary judgment." The Claims Court ordered Burnside-Ott to file "[o]n or before July 5, 1991 ... a supplemental response addressing those issues not briefed fully in its original May 13, 1991 response." On June 11, 1991, Burnside-Ott served a Request for Admissions, Interrogatories, a Request for Production of Documents, and a Notice of Deposition on the government.
On June 17, 1991, the government filed a motion for reconsideration of the Claims Court's June 4, 1991 order. In it, the government noted that under the normal rules of the Claims Court it should have 30 days in which to respond to Burnside-Ott's discovery request and that unless the court extended the July 5, 1991 date that it had set for Burnside-Ott's supplemental response, Burnside-Ott's supplemental response would be due before Burnside-Ott had an opportunity to review the government's responses to its discovery requests. In response, on June 24, 1991, the Claims Court issued an order allowing the government until June 28, 1991 to respond to discovery and extending the date that Burnside-Ott's supplemental response was due to July 12, 1992. The court stated:
By letter dated June 27, 1991, the government informed Burnside-Ott that it objected to several deposition notices on the basis of the deliberative process privilege. The following day, Burnside-Ott filed a motion to compel. On July 1, 1991, the Claims Court ruled on the motion, and on July 2, 3, and 8, and August 2 and 6, 1991, certain depositions were held.
On July 12, 1991, Burnside-Ott filed its supplemental brief and simultaneously filed a Motion for Continuance requesting additional time to conduct discovery and suspend disposition of the case by summary judgment until Burnside-Ott was afforded an opportunity to conduct meaningful discovery on the issues relevant to summary judgment. The court granted Burnside-Ott until August 6, 1991 to complete discovery and until August 8, 1991 to file a further supplemental response. By the end of this additional discovery period, the government had not yet identified all of the persons Burnside-Ott had inquired about. In particular, in its deposition notice, Burnside-Ott requested that the government designate the individual or individuals
The government failed to identify such persons by the close of discovery on August 6, 1991. Burnside-Ott noted this failure in its Motion for Continuance.
The court held oral argument on August 21, 1991, two days after the government timely filed its response to Burnside-Ott's supplemental brief. On November 27, 1991, the Claims Court issued an order dismissing Counts I-III for lack of jurisdiction and granting summary judgment in favor of the government on Counts IV and V.
C. The Claims Court's Decision
With respect to Counts I-III, the Claims Court relied on Emerald Maintenance, Inc. v. United States,
The Emerald Maintenance court determined that this clause divests the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (Board) of jurisdiction over any dispute that arises out of the labor standard provisions of the contract. 925 F.2d at 1428. In affirming the Board's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, the court stated:
Id. at 1429.
Relying on Emerald Maintenance, the Claims Court in this case stated that "disputes arising out of the labor standards provisions of a contract ... `are not ... subject to the Contract Disputes Act,'" and must be resolved by the DOL. 24 Cl.Ct. at 557 (quoting Emerald Maintenance, 88-3 BCA ¶ 21,103 at 106,532, 1988 WL 97169 (1988), aff'd,
As to Count I, the court concluded that "[t]his case is factually similar to Emerald Maintenance." Id. 24 Cl.Ct. at 560. "Here, as in Emerald, the matters reserved to and decided exclusively by the Department of Labor were not merely a part of the factual predicate, but rather formed the entire basis for Count I in Burnside-Ott's complaint." Id. at 561. The court added:
Similarly, with respect to Count II, the court stated:
Id. at 562 (citation omitted). Finally, with respect to Count III, the court concluded: "Inasmuch as the reclassification arose out of the labor standards provisions of the contract this court does not have subject matter jurisdiction." Id. at 563.
Additionally, despite the Claims Court's ultimate conclusion that it did not have jurisdiction, the Claims Court made numerous statements that appear to have decided the merits of each of Counts I-III. The ruling on jurisdiction, however, precluded a thorough legal consideration of the merits of Counts I-III.
Turning to Count IV and the equitable estoppel claim, the Claims Court granted summary judgment in favor of the government concluding that Office of Personnel Management v. Richmond,
With respect to Count V, the Claims Court found that Burnside-Ott bore the risk of mistake and that the Navy's intentions when the contract was awarded were irrelevant to Burnside-Ott's mutual mistake theory. Id. at 567. The court held, therefore, that Burnside-Ott could not prevail on its mutual mistake claim. Id. The court stated that "[t]he actions of the Navy, and the opinions of several Navy contracting officials as to what Burnside-Ott could, or should, have classified its employees cannot, in these circumstances, create a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 569.
Burnside-Ott appealed to this court. We have jurisdiction over the appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(3) (1988). "This court reviews Claims Court judgments to determine whether they are `incorrect as a matter of law' or premised on `clearly erroneous' factual determinations." Whitney Benefits, Inc. v. United States,
A. Jurisdiction: Counts I-III
Although Emerald Maintenance established the proper test for determining
In Emerald Maintenance, the DOL issued a ruling stating that the contractor, Emerald Maintenance, had not properly classified its roofer employees and that it was required to pay those employees increased wages. The contractor did not challenge the DOL's ruling through the DOL's administrative process and did not pay its employees the increased wages. The contracting officer eventually withheld from the contractor the amounts necessary to pay the increased wages under a provision of the contract which allows the contracting officer to withhold "so much of the accrued payments or advances as may be considered necessary to pay laborers and mechanics ... the full amount of wages required by the contract." 925 F.2d at 1427 & n. 1. Emerald Maintenance then submitted a claim to the contracting officer for payment of the withheld money. The contracting officer denied the claim and Emerald Maintenance appealed to the Board.
Before the Board, Emerald Maintenance relied on three alternative legal theories to support its right to recovery: defective specification, misrepresentation, and mutual mistake. Id. at 1427. The Board dismissed for lack of jurisdiction with respect to the first two theories and ruled in favor of the government with respect to the mutual mistake theory. In affirming the Board's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, the Emerald Maintenance court concluded that Emerald Maintenance's defective specification and misrepresentation claims were in reality challenges to the wage rate it was required to pay its roofers and the DOL's classification of those employees. See section I.C. supra.
In contrast, in the instant case, the contractor did challenge the DOL's December 15, 1986 ruling through the administrative process. And once it received the Secretary of Labor's final determination upholding the DOL's earlier ruling, the contractor paid its employees the increased wages as required by the DOL's ruling.
By asserting entitlement to an equitable adjustment under the Price Adjustment Clause and the Changes Clause of the contract, the contractor is not merely challenging the DOL's classification of its employees, or challenging the wage rate it had to pay its employees. After directly challenging the DOL's ruling, Burnside-Ott accepted the ruling and paid its employees. Rather, the contractor simply requests the Claims Court to determine the effect that the DOL's classification has on its contract rights. Such a determination requires the court to construe and apply the Price Adjustment Clause and the Changes Clause. The fact that "Burnside-Ott brought this suit to recover the increased costs it incurred as a result of the Department of Labor's December 15, 1986 ruling," 24 Cl. Ct. at 561, does not necessarily mean that Burnside-Ott's claim arose exclusively out of the labor standards provision of the contract. As the Claims Court stated: "[T]his court has jurisdiction when `a dispute centers on the parties' mutual contract rights and obligations, ... even though matters reserved to and decided exclusively by the [DOL] are part of the factual predicate.'" Id. at 557 (quoting Emerald Maintenance, 88-3 BCA ¶ 21,103 at 106,532); see also Aleman Food Servs. v. United States, 25 Cl.Ct. 201, 208 (1992) (stating that the Claims Court has jurisdiction where resolution of dispute requires examination of contract provisions and the DOL's determinations form only part of the factual predicate). Because the DOL's ruling in this case forms only part of the factual predicate of Counts I-III, the Claims Court does have jurisdiction over them.
The Claims Court's conclusion that it did not have jurisdiction over Counts I-III precluded it from making any findings or conclusions on the merits of those counts, especially on an incomplete record without fair discovery opportunity. Accordingly, to the extent that the Claims Court considered and decided the merits of those counts, its
B. Summary Judgment: Counts IV-V
The Claims Court improperly relied on Richmond to conclude that Burnside-Ott's equitable estoppel claim is barred as a matter of law. In particular, the Claims Court erred in concluding that Richmond stands for the proposition that equitable estoppel will not lie against the government for any monetary claim. The Richmond holding is not so broad. Richmond is limited to "claim[s] for the payment of money from the Public Treasury contrary to a statutory appropriation." 496 U.S. at 424, 110 S.Ct. at 2471 (emphasis added). Indeed, because the Supreme Court's analysis in Richmond is based entirely on the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7, which provides that "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law," its holding must be limited to claims of entitlement contrary to statutory appropriations.
Burnside-Ott's assertion of a right to payment of money from the Public Treasury, however, is not based upon a statutory entitlement. Burnside-Ott's assertion is instead based upon its contract with the Navy. Nor does Burnside-Ott claim entitlement contrary to statutory eligibility criteria, as did Richmond. Thus, neither the holding nor analysis in Richmond is applicable in this case, and Burnside-Ott's equitable estoppel claim is not barred as a matter of law because of Richmond. Equitable estoppel may or may not apply in this case depending on facts yet to be established.
Likewise, Burnside-Ott's mutual mistake claim is not barred as a matter of law. The Claims Court properly stated the law of mutual mistake:
24 Cl.Ct. at 566 (quoting National Rural Util. Coop. Fin. Corp. v. United States, 14 Cl.Ct. 130, 141 (1988), aff'd,
First, the Claims Court concluded that the Service Contract Act, as incorporated into Contract III, placed the risk of Burnside-Ott's increased labor costs on Burnside-Ott. Id. The Claims Court reached that conclusion by relying on the following provision of the Service Contract Act:
41 U.S.C. § 351 (1988), in conjunction with the succeeding provision that places responsibility for any violation of that section on the "party responsible therefor." 41 U.S.C. § 352(a) (1988). Neither of these provisions, however, places the responsibility on Burnside-Ott for mistaken classification. At most, they make Burnside-Ott
Second, the Claims Court concluded that the Navy's intentions at the time the contract was awarded are irrelevant to Burnside-Ott's mutual mistake theory. The intent of the parties, however, is not irrelevant to the question of which party agreed to assume the risk of mistake and must be considered in making such a determination. See Bowen-McLaughlin-York Co. v. United States,
"The Supreme Court has made clear that summary judgment is inappropriate unless a tribunal permits the parties adequate time for discovery." Dunkin' Donuts of America v. Metallurgical Exoproducts Corp.,
The Claims Court did put Burnside-Ott on notice that it intended to treat the government's motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment. As such, Burnside-Ott was on notice that it had to come forward with all of its evidence. However, the time provided to Burnside-Ott in which it could conduct discovery in order to gather such evidence was so limited as to be inadequate under the circumstances of this case.
The total time Burnside-Ott was allowed for discovery on the motion for summary judgment was two months (June 4, 1991 to August 6, 1991). Much of that time was consumed by the various motions that each party filed to extend the court's original grant of 30 days for discovery and by the motion to compel that Burnside-Ott was forced to file in response to the government's objection to its deposition requests. The fact that the government had not even responded to all of Burnside-Ott's discovery requests within the allotted discovery period and that no time remained for Burnside-Ott to file a second motion to compel also shows that Burnside-Ott was provided an inadequate opportunity for discovery. Indeed, the witness that the government had not yet identified may possess relevant information with respect to both Burnside-Ott's equitable estoppel and mutual mistake claims. To date, the government has offered no excuse at all for failing to respond during the two-month discovery period. In any event, on remand the trial court will have an opportunity to permit full discovery of facts necessary to resolve this case. We note that the trial judge exercised commendable trial management in trying to eliminate unnecessary discovery. And based on his view of the law, broader discovery was indeed unnecessary. Having determined, however, that neither the equitable estoppel claim nor the mutual mistake claim is barred as a matter of law, further discovery must be allowed.
Because neither Burnside-Ott's equitable estoppel nor mutual mistake claims are barred as a matter of law and because
The Claims Court erred in concluding that it does not have jurisdiction over Counts I-III of Burnside-Ott's claim. Those counts do not require the Claims Court to revisit actions by the DOL, but instead require the Claims Court to determine the contractual consequences of the DOL's determinations. The Claims Court also erred in granting summary judgment on Counts IV and V. Neither of those counts on its face is barred as a matter of law and Burnside-Ott must be given an adequate opportunity to discover facts as to those counts before summary judgment or other disposition would be appropriate. Accordingly, we reverse as to Counts I-III, vacate as to Counts IV-V, and remand for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion. To the extent the Claims Court discussed and decided the merits of Counts I-III, its decision is vacated.
REVERSED-IN-PART, VACATED-IN-PART, and REMANDED.
Each party shall bear its own costs.
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