In a recent case appealing a claim against the government, the agency filed for summary judgment invoking the Severin doctrine. Government contracts must be aware of this rule when appealing a government contract claim denial.
What is the Severin Doctrine?
This rule comes from the case of Severin v. United States, 99 Ct. Cl. 435 (1943). The underlying principles of the government’s sovereign immunity and privity of contract apply.
The Severin Doctrine prohibits a prime contractor from passing through subcontractor claims against the federal government if the prime contractor is not actually liable to the subcontractor for the costs or damages in dispute.
A more recent government contract claims case narrowed the Severin doctrine and explained that the doctrine is narrowly construed and that the government contracting agency bears the burden of showing the Severin doctrine applies.
Release of Claims
When litigating cases under the Severin Doctrine, the government must show an unconditional iron-clad release of claims that clearly protects the contractor from any and all liability to the subcontractor for the conduct in question. The Federal Circuit in an appeals case decided this in Yates & Sons Construction Co. v. Caldera, 192 F.3d 987, 990-92 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (allowing prime contractor sponsorship in instances where the prime contractor is only conditionally liable to the subcontractor for whatever it can recover from the government).
Issues for Appeal
When appealing a case where the Severin Doctrine applies, you have to present evidence showing that an independent prime contractor claim.
- If the prime has no obligation or liability to the subcontractor then the appeal will not be successful.
- The contents of the subcontract is critical to getting a fair chance of winning.
When filing a government contract claim, or appealing the contracting officer’s final decision, you must avoid costly mistakes under the Severin Doctrine. Call our government contract claims lawyers for help at 1-866-601-5518. FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.