Plaintiff contracted with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to construct a reactor testing station in Idaho. The contract gave the contracting officer and the head of the AEC (or his representative, the Board of Contract Appeals) authority to make findings of fact as to "disputes concerning questions of fact arising under this contract." Plaintiff submitted various claims in accordance with this disputes clause. Dissatisfied with the resulting administrative decisions, plaintiff brought an action in the Court of Claims for damages resulting from alleged breach of contract by defendant. The subjects of the alleged breach were the same as the claims presented under the disputes clause. The case was referred to a trial Commissioner for the taking of testimony and for a report. Defendant contended that the findings of fact of the AEC Board of Contract Appeals were final and binding upon the Court of Claims. Plaintiff maintained that an action for breach was not a dispute "arising under the contract," and hence introduction of de novo evidence before the Court of Claims was permissible. From an order by the Trial Commissioner favorable to plaintiff, defendant appealed. Held: Findings of fact by a duly authorized administrative body are not final and binding upon the Court of Claims in an action for breach of contract, even though the alleged breaching conduct was the subject matter of a claim processed under the standard Disputes clause of a government contract, and de novo evidence is admissible in order for the Court of Claims to make an independent judicial decision on the merits of the alleged breach. Utah Constr. & Mining Co. v. United States, 339 F.2d 606 (Ct. Cl. 1964), petition for cert. filed, 34, U.S.L. WEEK 3072 (U.S. Aug. 9, 1965) (No. 440).
Government Contract Disputes—Findings of Fact Not Binding When Breach Alleged,
40 Wash. L. Rev.
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