Supreme Court clarifies federal contractor immunity standards

Supreme CourtAccording to the January 20, 2016 decision in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, a contractor’s immunity from liability for work performed under contract with the federal government is qualified, rather than absolute. Previously, such immunity had been limited to the context of property damage resulting from public works projects. The Supreme Court stated that is no longer the case, and expanded the standards. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the types of claims to which immunity may apply opens a door to an additional argument federal contractors can now make. Contractors can claim they should be immune from employment claims if their actions were taken at the government’s direction. For example, this may include employee background screening undertaken for security reasons or actions taken to comply with affirmative action mandates. This decision makes it clear that, whatever the context, contractors interested in relying upon an immunity defense will need evidence of government direction and approval of their actions. Campbell-Ewald is an important development for government contractors. First, it clarifies that Yearsley immunity applies to all government contractors, not just public works projects. Second, it suggests that contractors have a presumption of Yearsley immunity.]]>

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