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Tucson Airport Auth. v. General Dynamics Corp.

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 21337
Nos. CIV-94-355-TUC-ROS, 922 F. Supp. 273/42 ERC 1811/(D. Ariz., 04/05/1996)

The court holds that it lacks jurisdiction over a company's claims to compel the U.S. government to defend the company in actions relating to groundwater contamination at the Tucson International Airport and to indemnify the company for liability, costs, and expenses it may incur in connection with such actions. The company is the successor to a corporation that modified aircraft during World War II pursuant to government contracts. The court first holds that the Administrative Procedure Act's (APA's) waiver of sovereign immunity does not apply to the company's claims in district court under the Contract Settlement Act of 1944. The APA's waiver of sovereign immunity does not extend to a claim if any other statute that grants consent to suit expressly or impliedly forbids the relief sought. The Tucker Act, which waives sovereign immunity for claims founded on an express or implied contract with the United States, but imposes restrictions on the relief that the Court of Federal Claims may award in government contract actions, impliedly forbids federal district courts from granting the same relief. A claim for injunctive relief based on a right conferred by a federal statute—as opposed to a right conferred by a government contract—may be heard in federal district court under the APA. But because the company's rights under its predecessor's government contracts must be resolved before determining whether the government has violated the Contract Settlement Act, the company's claims are based on the contracts, not the statute. The APA also waives sovereign immunity for final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in court, but the company can obtain adequate relief in the Court of Federal Claims.

The court holds that the company's constitutional claims also belong in the Court of Federal Claims. These claims are based on the company's alleged rights under its predecessor's government contracts, and the Tucker Act impliedly forbids declaratory and injunctive relief and precludes a waiver under the APA, 5 U.S.C. §702, in suits on government contracts. The court next holds that the company's claim for a writ of mandamus is improperly pled and barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The company's allegations do not establish that the named officials acted without any authority or that they clearly acted beyond the scope of their delegated powers. Therefore, the company's mandamus claim must be construed as a claim against the United States, but the company failed to identify an applicable waiver of U.S. sovereign immunity. The court also holds that it lacks supplemental jurisdiction over the company's breach of contract claims because federal courts have consistently held that the Court of Federal Claims' exclusive jurisdiction over Tucker Act claims is not overridden by supplemental jurisdiction. Finally, the court holds that the company's contribution claim under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act is barred by a consent decree, to which government defendants are parties, concerning contamination at the airport.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
John W. Adler Jr.
Adler, Murphy & McQuillen
190 S. La Salle St., Ste. 1200, Chicago IL 60603
(312) 345-0700

Counsel for Defendant
Herbert L. Fenster
McKenna & Cuneo
1900 K St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 496-7500