Supreme Court to Take Up Protection of Confidential Information Provided to the Government

On January 11, the United States Supreme Court announced it accepted the Food Marketing Institute’s cert petition to review the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, representing the latest development toward resolving a conundrum we have described before—how to protect confidential and trade secret information provided to the government in light of public disclosure laws.

This will be an important case for government contractors—and anyone else providing information to the federal government—to watch. If the Supreme Court agrees with the Eighth Circuit’s standard, it will become harder to prevent disclosure of confidential information to competitors when dealing with the federal government.

Read more about it on our firm blog, IP Law Trends.

 

Oregon’s 2019 Cap and Invest Legislation

Speaking today at a seminar sponsored by the University of Oregon, Senator Michael Dembrow and Representative Karin Power stated that they intend to introduce cap and invest legislation by the end of this month. The system is aligned with the Western Climate Initiative, the members of which include California and Quebec.

The general idea is to set a limit on carbon emissions from certain sectors of the economy, including power generation and transportation. Regulated entities in those sectors will be required to obtain carbon emission allowances for their emissions. The overall total of allowances will decline each year in accordance with Oregon’s carbon reduction goals. It appears that some allowances will be given to the regulated entities and the remainder will be auctioned. Initially, regulated entities will be able to satisfy up to 8 percent of their allowances using carbon offsets.

Revenue from the auctions will allocated into four general areas: greenhouse gas reduction projects, adaptation strategies, carbon sequestration, and transition assistance. The focus of transition assistance is to help people and companies adjust to the reduced-carbon economy.

Governor Brown has proposed that a new agency be formed to implement the legislation. The “Oregon Climate Authority” would consolidate some existing climate change programs at Ecology, Energy, and the PUC and take responsibility for implementing the cap and invest program.

Senator Dembrow hopes to have a bill-signing ceremony on April 22, 2019.

Proposition 65—Under Construction

California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, otherwise known as Proposition 65, continues to be amended to address errors and omissions in the original regulations. Proposition 65 applies to all businesses in the chain of commerce in California and requires all businesses to provide a “clear and reasonable” warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing any individual in California to one of nearly 1,000 listed chemicals. While Proposition 65 has been on the books for more than three decades, the regulations have never been clear as to how an upstream business, such as a manufacturer or distributor, is to provide the mandated warning to the final consumer through the chain of commerce. On November 16, 2018, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) proposed amending the regulation to help clarify this process. But OEHHA’s proposed amendment falls short of the stated goal. Continue Reading

James Walker Recognized on the Daily Journal of Commerce Oregon “Phenoms and Icons” 2018

Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP construction attorney James Walker was recognized as a 2018 Phenom by the Daily Journal of Commerce Oregon (DJC Oregon) on December 13 in Portland, Oregon. DJC Oregon’s newest award program honors local building industry’s longtime leaders while recognizing the up-and-coming professionals expected to share the future of architecture, engineering, construction, development, transportation, energy, and sustainability in the region. Click here to read the press release.

Washington Supreme Court Upholds Strict Interpretation of Contractual Notice Provisions: Failure to Immediately Give Notice of Claim a Complete Bar to Recovery

Nova, a public works contractor, filed a claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, based entirely on the City’s untimely and repeated rejection of submittals to perform culvert work in Olympia. The Supreme Court held that the contractor was barred from seeking damages because it failed to give written notice of protest “immediately” when the rejections occurred rather than waiting until the City terminated the contract. Under Section 1-04.5 of the contract (adopted from the WSDOT standard specifications), the contractor is required to “immediately” file a written notice of protest to preserve any claims related to rejection of such submittals, including claims for expectancy or consequential damages.

Failure of the contractor to “immediately” file such a written notice of protest following rejection of its submittals, regardless of actual notice by the City, bars the claim under the rule set forth in Mike M Johnson in the 2003 case. Interesting side note, the Washington Court of Appeals had carved out an exception to the harsh result of the Mike M Johnson rule and allowed the contractor to proceed with its breach claims since they were based on expectancy and consequential damages, not for the cost of work performed. The Supreme Court reversed and once again affirmed that no notice means no claim, leaving the contractor without a leg to stand on.

Nova Contracting Inc. v. City of Olympia, Case No. 94711-2 (Sept. 27, 2018).

Get Trained on New Requirements for Bidding on Public Works Contracts

Washington’s “responsible bidder” law already imposes significant requirements on contractors bidding on public works contracts: for instance, bidders must obtain certain types of industrial insurance, maintain records of wages and components used in construction, and must not have committed more than one prevailing wage violation in the past five years. Now, a new law will also require contractors to undergo training on public works and prevailing wage requirements in order to become eligible to bid on public contracts.

On March 23, 2018, Governor Jay Inslee signed SSHB 1673 into law, amending Washington’s current “responsible bidder” statute to add a new requirement that bidders on public works projects “have received training on the requirements related to public works and prevailing wage” and designate at least one person to be trained on these requirements. The bill requires the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to develop a curriculum for this training, which can be provided either by L&I itself or by a third-party training provider whose course has been approved by L&I. For its part, L&I has already created a web page which lists some of the qualifying in-person courses available to contractors.

Fortunately, the requirements of SSHB 1673 don’t go into effect until July 1, 2019, so aspiring public contractors have time to receive the required training. In addition, bidders with significant public contract experience are grandfathered in: the training requirements don’t apply to contractors who have completed at least three public works projects and have maintained a valid Washington business license for at least three years. But businesses that don’t meet these criteria are advised to complete the applicable training requirements as soon as possible—once the law goes into effect next summer, what you don’t know about public works and prevailing wage laws can hurt you.

Department of Labor to Hold Listening Session on Overtime Regulation in Seattle on September 11

As contractors well know, most construction workers are entitled to overtime pay when they have to work more than 40 hours a week. However, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, there is a “white collar” exception for certain employees who earn no less than a standard salary threshold and meet other conditions. In May of 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) raised that salary threshold to $47,476, but the rule was later enjoined by the courts. In July of last year, the DOL sent out a request for information looking for comments on the “white collar” exception and other aspects of the rule.

Now, the DOL is coming to Seattle on September 11 for a “listening session” to hear the public’s comments on any changes needed to the overtime exceptions. The session will be held at the Jackson Federal Building at 912 Second Avenue from 10 am – noon, and you can sign up here. Sign up now for a chance to let DOL know your opinions on this issue.

How Should Businesses Respond to a Notice of Intent Letter?

This article was originally published in the Vancouver Business Journal.

When businesses open a letter from Northwest Riverwatcher (a fictional environmental group) with the subject line “Notice of Intent to Sue Under the Clean Water Act,” the tendency, particularly among smaller businesses, is to ignore it and hope Riverwatcher goes away. There may be a mistaken belief that the threat to sue is an empty one, and that Riverwatcher sends out scores of such letters, hoping that a small percentage of the recipients will pay some money to make it go away. Continue Reading

State of Oregon Loses Statutory Recreational Immunity Defense Under New Court of Appeals Decisions

ORS 105.682 provides immunity from contract or tort claims to landowners who permit the public the use of their lands for recreational purposes. Under that statutory provision, a recreational user or the estate of such a user cannot sue the landowner if that user suffers personal injury, death, or property damage from the use of the land. On August 1, 2018, the Oregon Court of Appeals released decisions in two cases in which the State of Oregon used ORS 105.682 as a defense to negligence claims by injured users of State-owned property. In the first case, a 14-year-old boy had been surfing at Pacific City near Cape Kiwanda when he collided with a dory boat, which severed his arm. In the second case, a man was severely injured by a submerged boulder when he dove into Lake Billy Chinook at Cove Palisades State Park. In both cases, the critical question was whether the State had the authority to “make a volitional decision whether or not to allow recreational use on the land in question.” The court found in both cases that the State had not effectively demonstrated that it had that authority. The court used the standard text-in-context/legislative history interpretational aids to interpret ORS 105.682 as providing a legislative quid pro quo to landowners to encourage them to open their lands to the public for recreational purposes in exchange for immunity. If the owner of land does not have that authority, recreational immunity does not apply. 

 

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