Argument Preview / Panel Activity

Four cases being argued in April at the Federal Circuit attracted amicus briefs. One of these cases is Textron Aviation Defense LLC v. United States. In it, the Federal Circuit will review a judgment by the Court of Federal Claims, which granted the government’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, or in the alternative for summary judgment, in a government contract case. This is our argument preview.

In its opening brief, Textron Aviation Defense argues it was injured and its claim accrued “only when the government refused to pay its routine request for pension adjustment costs.” It contends the lower court failed to apply the rule that “any unexpected or unforeseen circumstances would give rise to a non-routine claim.” Textron asserts that, because it was not “injured by some unexpected or unforeseen action on the government’s part,” its request was routine. Additionally, Textron argues, “even if its claims accrued before a dispute,” the lower court “erred in granting judgment on limitations.” It asserts there is “no evidence” that it was aware of “the information necessary to assert a claim, and what Textron should have known was inappropriate for summary judgment.” Textron further argues the lower court incorrectly speculated that Textron “might have been able to calculate the amount it owed” when a “false certification exposes a contractor to significant liability.” 

In its response brief, the United States contends “[t]he claim asserted in Textron’s July 22, 2020, certified claim letter accrued, at the latest, on February 15, 2013, more than seven years before Textron’s July 2020 letter.” Therefore, the government says, “the claim is barred by the CDA’s six-year statute of limitations.” It argues “nothing prevented [Textron’s] predecessor from submitting the claim at issue in this case” by the deadline. The government maintains “claim accrual is not dependent on whether there is a dispute.” Moreover, it contends, “[n]either the contractor’s decision as to whether to request payment in a routine or non-routine format nor the timing of when it elects to submit such requests has any effect on when a claim accrues.” Anyway, it argues, its refusal to pay did not cause Textron’s injury, so dismissal or summary judgment was appropriate. 

In its reply brief, Textron argues the parties agree that the lower court erred. Although “the Government defends the outcome,” Textron says the government’s “brief abandons the opinion’s reasoning and urges this Court to adopt a radical reinterpretation” of the governing regulation. Textron argues “the Government misreads” that regulation when it says the definition of a claim “is irrelevant to limitations.” Additionally, Textron argues, “even if the Court of Federal Claims applied the correct test for accrual,” dismissal and summary judgment “were improper” because “the payment of money does not accrue” until the amount is “sum certain” and the contractor can certify its accuracy. 

The National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Aerospace Industries Association filed an amicus brief in support of reversal. They argue “[a]ffirming the trial court’s erroneous interpretation would distort the elements of claim accrual, and . . . would prejudice industry.” 

Oral argument will be heard on Monday, April 1. We will keep track of this case and report on any developments.