[UPDATE: The case discussed in this post is no longer valid. The Supreme Court has overruled the Commonwealth Court.]
Despite common misperception, the Pa. Board of Claims is not the exclusive forum for all state contract claims.
In a decision from December 2011, Scientific Games International Inc. v. Commonwealth of Pa., Department of Revenue, the Pa. Commonwealth Court held that it has jurisdiction to hear state contract claims seeking non-monetary relief. The decision concerned an RFP issued by the Department of General Services (DGS), on which there were two bidders, GTECH, the incumbent contractor, and its competitor, Scientific Games. Scientific Games was awarded the contract, which it executed (DGS did not execute contract). GTECH then protested. The protest was rejected by DGS and was also found to be in bad faith. Nevertheless, DGS canceled the RFP, stating that the cancelation was in its best interests.
Scientific Games then filed a complaint in the Commonwealth Court, claiming that it had a contract with the state and seeking specific performance of the contract and other non-monetary relief. DGS filed objections to the complaint, arguing that the Board of Claims had exclusive jurisdiction over state contract claims and that Scientific Games had an adequate administrative remedy.
The Commonwealth Court rejected the arguments of DGS that the Board of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction of all claims arising out of state-issued contracts. The Commonwealth Court relied upon a provision in the Pa. Procurement Code concerning the jurisdiction of the Board of Claims which states: “Nothing in this section shall preclude a party from seeking nonmonetary relief in another forum as provided by law.” The Commonwealth Court also held that the administrative remedies did not apply as the relief being sought by Scientific Games was non-monetary in nature.
This decision allows state contractors another potential forum for determination of their contract disputes with the state, provided, of course, that the disputes do not seek a monetary payment from the state.
The full court decision can be found here.