SW Legal studies in Business

Claim against Government Managers for Bid Rigging Dismissed
Description

Appeals court held that government managers who controlled a contract bidding process had qualified immunity against a suit for bid rigging. Plaintiff was not able to establish that the managers violated a clearly established legal principle.

Topic Contracts
Key Words

Government Bidding; Manipulation; Equal Protection

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Corey Airport Services submitted a bid for a contract with the City of Atlanta to manage the advertising displays at the Atlanta airport. Corey did not win the contract and charged that the bidding process was rigged against it because it is a political outsider. It sued the city and individual city employees (the airport manager and others) involved in the process, claiming violation of equal protection of the laws. The defendants claimed they were entitled to immunity and moved for summary judgment to dismiss the suit against them. The district court denied the motion. The employees appealed.

Decision

Reversed and remanded. City officials’ alleged conduct of manipulating the bidding process for the contract to favor a particular party did not violate any clearly established equal protection rights of the unsuccessful bidder. Therefore, the officials were entitled to qualified immunity from the bidder’s equal protection claim, despite precedent indicating a general principle that unequal application of a neutral law with the intent to discriminate may violate the equal protection clause. The bidder’s claim that it suffered discrimination because it is a “political outsider” presented a novel question of law. Qualified immunity shelters government officials performing discretionary functions from liability for civil damages, insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights.

Citation Corey Airport Services v. Decosta, ---F.3d--- (2009 WL 3806152, 11th Cir., 2009)

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