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COA disagrees on damages to bidder

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Indiana Court of Appeals judges disagreed today whether a company should be entitled to damages when it lowered its bid for work at a state-run hospital based on fraudulent information from another bidder.

Judges Edward Najam and Terry Crone affirmed the award of damages to Liberty Healthcare Corp. in its suit against Columbus Medical Services Organization for tortious interference with a business relationship, and for treble damages, attorneys' fees, and costs under the Crime Victims Relief Act.

Liberty and Columbus were bidding for the provision of psychiatric medical staffing services at Logansport State Hospital, which is owned by the state. At the time of the bidding, Liberty had been providing services at the hospital. During the request for proposal process, Columbus made misrepresentations and claimed doctors who worked for Liberty expressed interest in working for Columbus under the proposal. Columbus never spoke to these doctors.

As a result of a similar evaluation by the state, it requested Liberty and Columbus submit a second Best and Final Offer; Liberty had lowered its bid in order to win the contract. Columbus came in with the lower price and was awarded the contract. After the fraud was discovered, Liberty entered into a contract with the state, but was stuck at the lower bid price from the second Best and Final Offer. Liberty claimed that if it hadn't been for Columbus' fraud, it would have won the contract earlier on with a higher bid.

In Columbus Medical Services Organization LLC v. Liberty Healthcare Corp., No. 82A04-0808-CV-466, the majority agreed with the trial court's calculation of $486,497 in lost profits directly related to Columbus' fraudulent behavior. The specific amount was based on testimony from Liberty's CFO, who based his testimony on the mathematical calculation of the difference between the profits that would have been realized under the first BAFO and the profits realized under the contract that was eventually accepted by the state. The majority also acknowledged that it wasn't possible to calculate the damages with absolute certainty, but noted that tort damages don't require absolute certainty.

Chief Judge John Baker disagreed with his colleagues, believing the damage award to Liberty is too speculative. The trial court attempted to right the wrongs committed by Columbus, but there's no way of knowing what would have happened if Columbus hadn't committed fraud, been eliminated sooner, or not even participated.

"I also believe that the result reached by the majority leads to bad public policy. No one held a gun to Liberty's proverbial head and forced it to lower its bid. Liberty chose to do so. Admittedly, its decision was based on faulty, likely fraudulent, information, but it was a choice, nonetheless," he wrote.

As a matter of public policy, courts shouldn't award damages to a company that decided it was able and willing to lower its bid on a project, even if that decision was based on a competitor's fraud, he continued.

The chief judge concurred with the majority's conclusion that the Crime Victims Relief Act applied to Liberty. He would reverse the damages award, order a nominal damages award of $1 to Liberty, treble it under the CVRA to $3, and affirm the award of $473,468.04 for attorneys' fees and litigation expenses.

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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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