A recent court case found that, when the government breaches certain types of confidentiality agreements with a private party, the private party may not be able to obtain monetary damages caused by that breach. The case involved government employees violating a confidentiality agreement by discussing the nature of the plaintiff’s employment claim against the government and casting him in a negative light. However, the court concluded that the purpose of the confidentiality provision in the case was to prevent statements made during the settlement efforts from being used in subsequent formal proceedings. As a result, the court found that the plaintiff could not obtain monetary damages against the government caused by the breach. The plaintiff’s sole remedy was to exclude the information from any future proceedings.
Archives for January 2015
A bill was recently introduced in the Senate that would require the National Park Service to reimburse states for funds paid to the National Park Service to temporarily reopen areas which had been closed down by the National Park Service during the 2013 partial government shutdown. Because Congress subsequently fully-funded the National Park Service, the proponents of the bill assert that the $2 million is a windfall that should be returned to the states. A related bill was also introduced that would require the federal government to enter into an agreement to accept funding in the future if needed to keep open areas administered by the National Park Service if necessary, and to refund any such funding if Congress retroactively provides funds that would have been used for that purpose.
A protester recently filed a bid protest challenging the US Marine Corps decision to award several new contracts for information technology systems, claiming that the government was not evenhanded in its evaluation. While a review of a bid protest is usually limited to the documents produced by the government to support its decision, in this matter the court agreed that the plaintiff was entitled to further information given that the case was one of those rare situations that indicated “some personal animus or bias on the part of” an agency official.
The agency official had apparently expressed “extreme frustration” that her summary for award to the company she preferred had not been accepted by agency counsel and had gone to great lengths to criticize a competing proposal. The court noted that, while there might be an “innocuous explanation” for the official’s conduct, “bias could more easily explain” it. As a result, the protester was entitled to seek information beyond the documents which the government had included as part of the record for review.
The National Park Service has issued a list of the prospectuses it expects to issue by September 2015 for new concession contracts. The list, which includes operations at Denali, Canyon De Chelly, Petrified Forest, the National Mall and Olympic National Parks, among others, can be viewed at:
A court recently held that the Forest Service was protected from any liability for harm caused to a young boy who was harmed by a hazardous tree in a dispersed campsite.
While a family was camping at a dispersed campsite on the Boise National Forest, a tree that had been dead for 10-25 years fell on a young boy, causing severe injury. Five years before, the Forest Service had inventoried the campsites in the area for purposes of improving watershed conditions, and the evaluation included an assessment of hazardous trees. However, the Forest Service did not identify the tree as hazardous at that time, nor did the evaluation require that any action be taken as to hazardous trees. After the incident, the Forest Service did conclude that, had the tree still been standing, it would have been identified as highly hazardous.
The family filed a claim against the government for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court concluded that the agency had no policy that required it to remove hazardous trees from dispersed camping sites. The court also concluded that the decision by the Forest Service as to when to remove hazardous trees from dispersed campsites was driven by policy and discretionary. Thus, for these two reasons, the court held that the Forest Service was immune from any liability in this situation.