369 F.3d 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2004), 03-5113, Galen Medical Associates, Inc. v. United States

Docket Nº:03-5113.
Citation:369 F.3d 1324
Party Name:GALEN MEDICAL ASSOCIATES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee, and Deborah Downing MD, PLLC, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:May 25, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
 
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Page 1324

369 F.3d 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2004)

GALEN MEDICAL ASSOCIATES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee,

and

Deborah Downing MD, PLLC, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 03-5113.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

May 25, 2004

Rehearing Denied July 20, 2004.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Terry Wallace, of Ridgeland, Mississippi, argued for plaintiff-appellant.

Brian S. Smith, Attorney, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, Department of Justice, of Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellee, the United States. With him on the brief were Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General, David M. Cohen, Director, and Mark Melnick, Assistant Director.

J. Michael Littlejohn, Wickwire Gavin, P.C., of Vienna, VA, argued for defendant-appellee, Deborah Downing, MD, PLLC. With him on the brief was Stephanie M. Himel-Nelson.

Before MICHEL, LOURIE, and DYK, Circuit Judges.

MICHEL, Circuit Judge.

Galen Medical Associates, Inc. ("Galen") appeals from the order of the United States Court of Federal Claims granting the motions of the government and Deborah Downing M.D., PLLC ("Downing") for judgment on the administrative record. Galen Med. Assocs. v. United States, 56 Fed.Cl. 104 (Fed.Cl.2003). We conclude Galen has failed to establish that the award of the contract to Downing was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law, and we therefore affirm the Court of Federal Claims' judgment.

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BACKGROUND

The G.V. Sonny Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center ("VA") solicited bids on May 4, 2001, for provision of medical care to veterans in Meridian, Mississippi. The solicitation stated that the VA would evaluate proposals based on technical capability, past performance, and price. The solicitation was a "best value" procurement and noted that technical capability was weighted "slightly" higher than past performance. However, of the 200 total points possible, technical capability was assigned ninety and past performance was assigned only ten. In the final evaluation of the proposals, technical capability and past performance were combined into a single "technical score" worth a maximum of 100 points. The score for bid price made up the remaining 100 points.

Three companies submitted proposals for the project: Galen, Downing (the incumbent contractor), and CR Associates. Six VA-appointed evaluators used score sheets awarding point values based on the evaluators' opinion of how well each proposal met the criteria set forth in the bid solicitation. One of the six evaluators, Frank Tuminello, was also listed in Downing's proposal as a "past-performance reference." On June 5, 2001, the VA concluded its evaluations, and Galen received an overall score of 189 (89 technical score and 100 price score). Downing scored 183 (90 technical and 93 price), and CR Associates scored 187 (95 technical and 92 price). Galen's bid price was $4,261,950, and Downing's bid price was $4,564,800.

On June 6, 2001, the VA asked the competitors to submit best and final offers ("BAFOs") by June 8, but Downing, according to the trial court, submitted some documents after the request date for the BAFOs. After the BAFOs were submitted, the VA evaluators re-scored the proposals. Downing had lowered her bid price to $4,206,900 and received a new score of 190 (90 technical and 100 price). Galen received a new score of 188 (89 technical and 99 price). In a letter dated July 27, 2001, the VA notified Galen that the contract had been awarded to Downing.

On August 3, 2001, Galen informed the VA that it wanted to engage the agency protest process and requested an opportunity for discussions with the agency pursuant to Federal Acquisition Regulations. Galen also requested documentation regarding the acquisition process. However, the VA supplied only the names of the bidders and denied Galen's request for discussions.

Galen filed a formal protest with the VA alleging bias and wrongful award of contract. The VA took no action, and Galen notified the VA that it would file a protest with the General Accounting Office ("GAO") if the VA did not address its assertions. The VA responded with three letters dated August 17 supplying additional documentation regarding the solicitation.

On August 24, 2001, Galen filed a formal protest with the GAO alleging a pattern of procurement violations. Before any action by the GAO, the VA elected to perform corrective action and decided to permit the bidders to submit new proposals for evaluation. As part of the corrective action, the VA changed the solicitation's characterization of the weight of technical capability from "slightly" more important to "significantly" more important than past performance. After the VA agreed to take corrective action, the GAO dismissed Galen's protest as moot.

Galen asked the VA whether the new solicitation would be with or without "discussions," and the VA replied that the solicitation was a "negotiated procurement,"

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that all offerors had an opportunity to re-submit proposals, and that the VA was currently in the negotiation process. Galen submitted its new bid with a reduced price of $3,648,900, but did not change its technical proposal. Downing's bid price was unchanged. CR associates first submitted a bid price of $4,583,348, but later revised its proposal and lowered its price to $4,165,572. VA's contracting officer concluded that CR Associates' revised proposal did not meet the solicitation's technical specifications, therefore, the evaluators considered only CR Associates' unrevised bid with a price of $4,583,348.

Of the members of the original panel, only Gloria Matory was an evaluator in the post-corrective action evaluation. But again, one of the evaluators for this evaluation, Ron Kirkpatrick, was listed as a past-performance reference by Downing. Kirkpatrick had been the contracting officer technical representative ("COTR") for Downing's clinic. This time, the evaluators gave Downing's bid a score of 179 (92 technical and 87 price), Galen's bid a score of 175 (75 technical and 100 price) and CR Associates' bid a score of 173 (93 technical and 80 price). The VA again awarded the contract to Downing.

Galen filed another protest with the GAO, but after concluding that Galen's proposal failed to include an adequate site for the clinic and was thus ineligible for the award, the GAO dismissed the case for lack of standing.1 On April 30, 2002, Galen filed a complaint with the United States Court of Federal Claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 1491 (incorporating the standard of 5 U.S.C. § 706) alleging that the VA contract award was "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law." Galen also asserted that VA officials were biased in favor of Downing during the evaluation process, a violation of 48 C.F.R. § 15.306(e)(1) which provides, "[g]overnment personnel involved in the acquisition shall not engage in conduct that favors one offeror over another." 48 C.F.R. § 15.306(e)(1) (2003).

The Court of Federal Claims determined that, rather than rejecting Galen's proposal as ineligible because of a lack of an adequate facility, the VA had evaluated it on the merits and reduced Galen's score. The court noted that Galen had a substantial chance of receiving the award and therefore had standing. The court allowed limited discovery--specifically, depositions were permitted only to determine what documents existed that must be considered part of the administrative record. After discovery, the parties cross-moved for judgment on the administrative record. Oral argument was heard on March 28, 2003. One week after oral argument, the Court of Federal Claims issued an order and opinion, noting that the VA's record-keeping may have been sloppy and that the agency could have been more forthcoming in its discussions with Galen, but nonetheless granted the defendants' motions for judgment on the administrative record because Galen had not offered sufficient evidence of bias or any other basis for finding an arbitrary and capricious award of the contract.

DISCUSSION

A disappointed bidder may make a claim against the agency pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C § 702, which states:

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A person suffering legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute, is entitled to judicial review thereof. An action in a court of the United States seeking relief other than money damages and stating a claim that an agency or an officer or employee thereof acted or failed to act in an official capacity or under color of legal authority shall not be dismissed nor relief therein be denied on the ground that it is against the United States or that the United States is an indispensable party.

5 U.S.C. § 702 (2000); Scanwell Lab., Inc. v. Shaffer, 424 F.2d 859, 864, 868 (D.C.Cir. 1970) (reasoning that suits challenging the award process are in the public interest and disappointed bidders are the parties with an incentive to enforce the law); CACI, Inc.-Federal v. United States, 719 F.2d 1567, 1574 (Fed.Cir. 1983) (making the Scanwell doctrine applicable to the Claims Court).

In 1996, Congress amended 28 U.S.C § 1491 to add a specific provision granting both the district courts and the United States Court of Federal Claims jurisdiction to render judgment on an action brought by a disappointed bidder in a government contract procurement. Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996 ("ADRA"), Pub.L. No. 104-320, § 12, 110 Stat. 3870, 3874. Thus, the Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction "to render judgment on an action by an interested party...

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