Crown Coat Front Company, Inc. v. United States

PETITIONER: Crown Coat Front Company, Inc.
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Legion Field

DOCKET NO.: 371
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 386 US 503 (1967)
ARGUED: Feb 13, 1967 / Feb 14, 1967
DECIDED: Apr 10, 1967

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Crown Coat Front Company, Inc. v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 14, 1967 in Crown Coat Front Company, Inc. v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 13, 1967 in Crown Coat Front Company, Inc. v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 371 Crown Coat Front Company Incorporated, Petitioner versus United States.

Mr. McDermott .

Edwin J. McDermott:

Chief Justice Warren, may it please the Court.

This case concerns a Government supply contract.

Petitioner, because of a change, requested an upward price adjustment in the contract price and upon the contracting officers' adverse decision took an appeal.

The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals decision was also adverse.

Thereupon, petitioner brought a Tucker Act suit in the District Court below.

We are concerned solely with the statute of limitations which in this case bars the action unless filed within six years after the right of action first accrues.

The District Court action was filed more than six years after the final contract delivery date although at the time involved in the administrative proceeding be excluded, the action was filed within a secured period.

The ASPCA decision was filed six years four-and-a-half months after the final contract delivery date although the contract claim was made more than a year prior to the final contract delivery date.

Now there are three issues involved.

First is whether the contractor, while the contract administrative proceeding is pending, must bring a protective suit in order to stay the running of the statute.

Second, is the statute extended to the date of the Board's decision so that it does not start to run until that time or that date?

And third, is the statute tolled during the time of the contractor's claim is pending in the contract administrative proceeding.

To change this article under which the claim arose provided for resolution of any dispute by the disputes article which in turn provided for decision by the contracting officer with appeal to the Secretary whose decision on that of his representative was final and conclusive.

The disputes article proceeding was mandatory.

Now, the implied contract which petitioner had was for canteen covers and it provided that the dyed felt therefore should contain a minimum amount of mildew inhibitor and be tested.

The respondent, after testing it, rejected the felt, were not containing the required amount of inhibitor without disclosing the test that it made.

Now the petitioners' deliveries were delayed some three months odd and its manufacturing cost increase by these rejections.

Then the canteen covers were accepted upon the making of a downward price adjustment similarly under the changes article.

Now much later but well within the six-year period after final delivery, the petitioner discovered that the respondent had rejected the dyed felt by the use of a colorimetric test which was not provided by the contract and which we contend was not accurate as the dyed felt.

Now the petitioner requested the contracting officer to make an equitable upward price adjustment and from his denial took an appeal and upon the adverse decision the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals brought this Tucker Act suit in the District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Now the District Court dismissed the suit on the ground that it was barred by the statute of limitations ruling that the statutes started to run on the date of the final contract deliveries.

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and that Court on the division affirmed the judgment.

Now, the three issues involved as I said are staying, extending or tolling the statute of limitations.

Now, this urge to their protective suit must be instituted to stay the running of the statute while the administrative remedy is being pursued.

If the protective suit be the rule and many lawyers would advise their clients to file actions in the District Courts or in the Court of Claims at the time that the administrative proceeding under the disputes article has instituted.

Now the defendant -- now the respondent in his brief has referred to an article by Mr. Spector, the Chairman on Board of Appeals.

That's on page 34, the respondent's brief.

Now on page 284, Mr. Spector's article has noted there are 11,856 appeals redacted by the ASPCA and the predecessors and that only 467 were filed in court.