Under a federal construction contract, a contractor MUST comply with the Contract Disputes Act and request a final decision from the contracting officer in order for the United States Court of Federal Claims to have jurisdiction over the claim. This means that in most instances a request for an equitable adjustment (REA) will not meet the requirements of the Contract Disputes Act, meaning the Court of Federal Claims will not have jurisdiction to resolve a disputed REA. This is an important distinction for contractors that work on federal construction projects that submit requests for equitable adjustments and best articulated by the Court of Federal Claims:
Under the CDA [Contract Disputes Act], the Court only has subject matter jurisdiction over a contract action against the Government if the action is filed within twelve months after receipt of a contracting officer’s final decision on the claim. Therefore, both a contractor’s claim and the contracting officer’s final decision on that claim are jurisdictional requirements. Logically, there can be no contracting officer’s final decision on a claim if the contractor has not requested such a decision from the contracting officer. A request for a contracting officer’s final decision need not be explicitly labeled as such. For example, an REA under certain circumstances can be construed as a request for a contracting officer’s final decision. However, a request for a contracting officer’s final decision must, at minimum, be a written demand that includes (1) adequate notice of the basis and amount of a claim and (2) a request for a final decision.
Zafer Taahut Insaat ve Ticaret, A.S. v. United States, 2016 WL 7176723, *3 (Fed.Cl. 2016) (internal quotations and citations omitted).
In Zafer Taahut Insaat ve Ticaret, a contractor submitted an REA for unanticipated costs in incurred on a foreign construction project. In the REA, the contractor simply asked the government to review and evaluate the REA at the earliest convenience. The REA was not sent directly to the contracting officer. The government did not pay the REA and the contractor filed suit in the Court of Federal Claims. The government moved to dismiss the lawsuit based on the contractor’s failure to comply with the Contract Disputes Act. The Court granted the motion to dismiss because (1) the REA was not sent directly to the contracting officer and (2) the REA did not request the contracting officer issue a final decision under the Contract Disputes Act. Hence, the Court did not have jurisdiction to resolve the claim.
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