Late last month, the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA) approved a settlement agreement under which the federal government will pay the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments (CATG) a lump-sum payment of $1.1 million for historical unpaid contract support costs claims.
The contract support costs claims involved CSC shortfalls for FY 1996 to FY 2000: $463,411 in FY 1996, $552,998 in FY 1997, $105,471 in FY 1998, $70,954 in FY 1999 and $240,328 in FY 2000, according to the original complaint, Athabascan Tribal Governments v. Indian Health Service, Dr. Charles W. Grim, Director.
In the complaint, filed in 2006, CATG sought $1,769,791 in damages for these unpaid contract support costs. It settled on less than it sought because, as Geoffrey D. Strommer, a partner at Hobbs Straus Dean & Walker, LLP, the attorney of record in this case, said, “They felt like it was a fair settlement, based on the amounts that they had claimed and the state of the law with respect to the validity of their claims.”
While the facts of each case decided on by the CBCA are slightly unique, Strommer said the core facts in this case were really the same. What was different about this case is that CATG had one claim year pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the remainder in the CBCA. Thus, there were two different courts. He was optimistic in winning in the District Court, but the case was dismissed as part of the settlement.
When asked if the CATG case will have any bearing on any other contract support costs cases in litigation, Strommer said, on its own, very little, but he thinks it does reflect the willingness of the Indian Health Service to work with tribes that are open to resolving historical unpaid contract support costs claims.
Hobbs Straus Dean & Walker is handling about a dozen of these cases for tribes and tribal organizations nationwide, and the firm has already settled four.
This case, however, could increase the chances of other settlements being reached. “There does seem to be an interest and openness by the agency to try to resolve these claims, if they feel like the settlement amounts are within a range that they are comfortable with and think is fair,” Strommer said.