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Reliance Insurance Co. v. United States

Decided: April 26, 1991.

RELIANCE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States Claims Court; No. 198-89C.

Mayer, Circuit Judge, Bennett, Senior Circuit Judge, and Lourie, Circuit Judge.

Lourie

DECISION

Reliance Insurance Company (Reliance) appeals from an order of the United States Claims Court, No. 198-89C, dismissing Reliance's complaint for failure to submit a properly certified claim of more than $50,000 as required by the Contract Disputes Act (Act), 41 U.S.C. § 605 (c)(1) (1988). We affirm.

Discussion

On April 18, 1988, Reliance submitted a claim in the form of a letter to a contracting officer requesting a total of $111,650.50 plus interest, in two principal amounts ($74,719.00 and $36,931.50), for breach of contract damages against the United States Corps of Engineers. The letter was signed by an assistant bond manager for Reliance and notarized.*fn* The contracting officer refused to take action on Reliance's claim because it failed to timely appeal to the Board of Contract Appeals an adverse judgment on a claim by the government, pursuant to 48 C.F.R. § 33.211(v) (1989).

Reliance thereafter brought an action against the government in the Claims Court, pursuant to 41 U.S.C. § 609 (a)(1). After a year of proceedings, the government filed a motion to dismiss, urging that Reliance had not properly certified its claim to the contracting officer for an initial decision as required by the Contract Disputes Act, 41 U.S.C. § 605 (c)(1). That provision states:

For claims of more than $50,000, the contractor shall certify that the claim is made in good faith, that the supporting data are accurate and complete to the best of his knowledge and belief, and that the amount requested accurately reflects the contract adjustment for which the contractor believes the government is liable.

41 U.S.C. § 605 (c)(1).

The Claims Court granted the government's motion and held that the "bare bones statement" in Reliance's letter ("I HEREBY CERTIFY that the claims are true to the best of my knowledge and belief") did not constitute a sufficient certification under 41 U.S.C. § 605 (c)(1). The court stated that certification must be in the form of a statement that simultaneously makes all the assertions required by § 605 (c)(1), citing W. H. Moseley Co., Inc. v. United States, 677 F.2d 850, 852 (Ct. Cl. 1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 836 (1982).

While the Claims Court mistakenly relies on Moseley for the proposition that the contractor must satisfy in a single sentence all the requirements of section 605(c)(1), we agree with the court that Reliance did fail to comply with the Contract Disputes Act. We therefore affirm.

In Moseley, the contractor asserted that a collection of documents and communications over a period of time between it and the government, taken as a whole, amounted to certification. Our predecessor court held in that case that such a communication was not enough, that to properly certify a claim, the contractor must satisfy the three requirements in a simultaneous statement. However, even if we construe Reliance's two-page letter as a simultaneous statement, the letter did not meet the necessary elements of the statute to constitute a properly certified claim.

The first element of the statute requires a contractor to assert that its claim is made in "good faith." The first paragraph of Reliance's claim reads as follows: "On behalf of Reliance Insurance Company, and in good faith, I request a final decision on the following matters raised in this certified claim . " This element was thus satisfied.

However, the second assertion of the statute requires a contractor to certify that the "supporting data be accurate and complete to the best of the contractor's knowledge and belief." Reliance's letter lists two principal amounts, $74,719.00 and $36,931.50, with a pay sheet attached from which the first principal amount was derived. Reliance did not attest that the supporting data for these ...


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