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Judge rules on summary judgment motions in IBM case

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The State of Indiana may be on the hook to pay IBM $40 million in subcontractor assignment fees per the contract it had with IBM to update the state’s welfare system, a contract the state cancelled in October 2009 because it wasn’t happy with results.

Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer issued several rulings Wednesday in the lawsuit stemming from the cancelled contract between the state and IBM. The state hired IBM in 2006 but cancelled the contract three years later and sued IBM to try to recover the millions it paid before ending the contract, plus triple damages. IBM countersued for breach of contract, arguing the state still owed around $100 million.

Dreyer rejected the state’s contention that IBM isn’t entitled to the $40 million in subcontractor assignment fees. The contract between the state and IBM said that the “state shall pay” IBM those fees, and there is no dispute that the state accepted assignment of the subcontracts at issue. The Family & Social Services Administration believes this ruling is an error and plans to appeal, according to a spokeswoman.

IBM also asked for $43 million in deferred fees due to the termination of the agreement as well as $9.3 million for equipment the state has but did not pay IBM for, but Dreyer denied summary judgment on those issues.

Dreyer ruled in favor of the state on IBM’s argument that its poor performance could be excused because of the economic downtown and flooding that occurred after the contract was signed. He found that any contention by IBM at trial that the economy or the flooding rendered its performance “impossible” or otherwise justifies any failure by IBM to meet contractual obligations are precluded as a matter of law.

There are also disputes of material fact as to whether there was a breach of the contract, so Dreyer denied the state’s motion for summary judgment on the matter.

The court has ruled the state is limited to recovering no more than $125 million in damages; if the state can’t prove IBM breached the contract, it could owe the company $100 million per a termination clause.

An issue that arose from this case is whether Gov. Mitch Daniels can be deposed. Dreyer originally ruled Daniels doesn’t have to be deposed, but later ruled that he can be. That issue will be before the Indiana Supreme Court Feb. 13.

The case is set to go to bench trial Feb. 27.

 

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