November 6, 2015
On November 2, Dentons litigators highlighted government contractor tort liability defense strategies at a 90-minute briefing co-sponsored by the Professional Services Council−The Voice of the Government Services Industry (PSC). The session began with an overview by PSC Executive Vice President and Counsel Alan Chvotkin, who emphasized that there are a growing number of private-party personal injury and property damage suits arising out of contractual services that federal contractors provide to the US military and to a wide range of federal departments and agencies. He stressed the importance of contractors taking the initiative and not simply being “on the defensive” when confronted with litigation.
Jessica Abrahams, Dentons’ Government Contracts practice chair, then discussed best practices companies should take to proactively mitigate liability risks. She stressed the importance for every government contractor, regardless of size, to establish and implement a comprehensive program to ensure compliance with the multitude of regulatory and contractual requirements.
Tami Lyn Azorsky, Dentons’ Litigation practice co-chair, outlined proactive steps that government contractors should take for putting themselves in the best possible position to win liability suits. These steps range from knowledge of industry standards to incident response investigations to comprehensive recordkeeping.
Lisa Himes, Dentons litigator with extensive experience defending government contractors in liability suits, including “battlefield contractor” suits, discussed a number of specific strategies, procedures and substantive defenses aimed at gaining early dismissal of private-party liability suits against government contractors. Explaining that these are not ordinary liability suits since important government interests are invariably at stake, they urged companies to fully but promptly evaluate a number of unique procedures and defenses available to government contractors. For example, immediate removal of government contractor damages suits to federal court, and vigorous pursuit of dispositive pretrial defenses such as the political question doctrine, derivative sovereign immunity, combatant activities preemption and Defense Base Act preemption, should all be considered.
Dana Pashkoff, a Dentons Government Contracts lawyer, described the federal SAFETY Act’s background and liability protections for qualified anti-terrorism technologies, including services. She discussed the scope of the SAFETY Act’s coverage and the procedures for and value of obtaining SAFETY Act protection for government contractors.
Mr. Chvotkin concluded the program with a list of take-aways from the Dentons lawyers’ presentations. He emphasized that government contractors should take preventative measures now to avoid or minimize the potential impact of liability suits arising out of services provided to the federal government.
Materials used at the briefing are available by contacting any of the Dentons lawyers who participated in the program.