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IBM seeks greater judgment; state claims $62 million award erroneous

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A $62 million judgment against the state for canceling a contract with IBM to overhaul Indiana’s social services administration is clearly erroneous, an attorney for the state argued Monday, while an IBM lawyer argued the company was entitled to even greater damages.

A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals heard arguments in State of Indiana v. IBM, 49D10-1005-PL-021451. Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer in July 2012 awarded IBM more than $52 million in damages plus about $10 million in prejudgment interest.

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Agency in 2006 signed a 10-year, $1.3 billion contract with IBM under which the company was to upgrade the state’s systems for handling claims and processing for welfare, food stamps and Medicaid. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the contract and terminated it in 2009 after the state paid $437 million.

Barnes & Thornburg LLP partner Peter Rusthoven argued that the contract was canceled for cause because the upgrade was “plagued with problems from the start,” and that the record showed IBM was in material breach.

Rusthoven also told the appeals panel it would have to determine whether the trial court ruling that awarded damages to IBM at the summary judgment stage was “infected from top to bottom with legal errors.”

IBM attorney Jay Lefkowitz of the New York firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP said his client was entitled to sums in addition to those awarded by the trial court, and pushed for damages of about $106.6 million.

The increased amount would include an additional $43 million in deferred fees – a “true-up” or “make-whole payment” reflecting the greater amount of upfront work IBM performed at the outset of the contract.

“During the early part of the contract, IBM was being underpaid,” Lefkowitz said.

Judge John Baker presided over the panel that included Judges Ezra Friedlander and Nancy Vaidik, which heard 90 minutes of oral arguments Monday. The arguments may be viewed online. The court will rule at a later date.

Read more about the oral arguments in State v. IBM in the Dec. 4 Indiana Lawyer

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