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Government Contract Misdescription

Posted by Dan McAuliffe on Aug 18, 2017 11:37:11 AM
Dan McAuliffe
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Nancy McBroom v. General Services Administration, 2017 WL 3114029

 Frustrated-Woman-Looking-At-Engine.jpg

 

The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA) decided this case. As part of the General Services Administration (GSA), the CBCA hears various cases concerning federal agencies in the executive branch. Under the Contract Disputes Act, the CBCA conducts dispute resolution between government contractors and agencies.

 

 

Background 

On January 13, 2016, the GSA listed an auction on GSAauctions.gov for the sale of one 2010 Dodge wagon. The listing description provided that the vehicle may have: 

  • “Scratches, scuffs, chips, dings and dents consistent with field use,”
  • “Small holes in dash, console, floor, roof from equipment removal” and
  • “Stains and wear on carpet and seats.” 

Additionally, the listing specified that the vehicle would be “sold as is” with a recommendation for bidders to “view vehicle before bidding.” The Department of the Interior (DOI) was the previous owner of this vehicle. 

In order to submit bids via GSAauctions.gov, users must complete a profile. This profile includes username and password, personal information and the Online Sales Terms and Conditions. The Online Sales Terms and Conditions incorporates Standard Form 114C, also known as the General Sales Terms and Conditions. In this case, the 2010 Dodge wagon in question was a fleet vehicle. Bidders for the 2010 Dodge wagon were also bound by the Fleet Vehicle Sales Terms and Conditions for Internet Sales. 

After bidding concluded, Nancy McBroom won the 2010 Dodge wagon auction with a bid of $16,210. Mrs. McBroom did not inspect the vehicle prior to bidding, but requested to test drive the vehicle after winning the auction. Her request was denied. Then Mrs. McBroom and her husband Richard McBroom took possession of the vehicle on February 14, 2016. 

On February 22, 2016, Mrs. McBroom sent a letter to the DOI, detailing “a leak in the engine manifold” and shocks that were “completely and dangerously worn out.” Mrs. McBroom requested reimbursement for repairs, as these defects were known and not disclosed prior to the auction. 

On November 16, 2016, Mr. McBroom called the contracting officer to follow up on the February 22 letter. After the call, Mr. McBroom followed up via email and admitted to making several alterations to the vehicle. 

The contracting officer responded, stating that the terms and conditions of sale were clear. Any alterations to the vehicle remove the possibility of return or reimbursement. Moreover, even in the absence of alterations, the 15-day window for such claims had long since passed. 

After several requests and denials, the McBrooms appealed to the CBCA for relief. Claiming that the GSA violated their warranty by failing to disclose known defects, the McBrooms requested compensation for either total cost of repairs or a refund of the auction price. 

Analysis 

First, the CBCA addressed the timeliness of this claim. To request a refund, the Fleet Vehicle Sales Terms and Conditions for Internet Sales required “written notice to the Contracting Officer within 15 calendar days of the date of removal.” The McBrooms did send a letter to the DOI within the 15-day window. But it took approximately nine months for the McBrooms to follow up with the contracting officer. As a result, the McBrooms failed to submit their request in a timely fashion. 

Second, the CBCA considered the alterations to the vehicle. As provided in the Fleet Vehicle Sales Terms and Conditions for Internet Sales, property “must be in the same condition as when removed” to request a refund. The CBCA underlined that individuals “cannot make changes to the vehicle and maintain a claim for misdescription.” 

Third, the CBCA tackled the claim of misdescription. The McBrooms claimed the engine manifold leak and worn-out shocks were known defects but not disclosed. But the CBCA pointed out that the “GSA does not warrant the condition of the vehicle and deficiencies may exist even though they are not disclosed.” Overall, the McBrooms were dissatisfied with the condition of the vehicle, not the description. As a result, misdescription claims do not apply. 

Do You Need Legal Advice from an Experienced

Government Contract Dispute Attorney? 

Navigating the ins and outs of contracts can be a challenge. There are various legal regulations and considerations at play, which can make it difficult to understand the proper course of action. But a knowledgeable contract dispute attorney can make all of the difference, helping you avoid pitfalls and resolve any issues that might arise. 

If you are in need of assistance with government contracts or other related matters, please do not hesitate to contact Whitcomb, Selinsky, McAuliffe, PC immediately. You can reach the attorneys at Whitcomb, Selinsky, McAuliffe, PC by phone at (303) 534-1958 or online by completing a simple form.

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