Teaming Agreement: Richmond Circuit Court Concludes More than Mere Agreement to Try and Agree

01/19/2015

Teaming agreements are regularly used for collaborative bids or proposals. A significant related issues has increasingly been the enforceability of the teaming agreement, and in particular whether it is merely an agreement to try and agree or whether it creates an obligatory requirement to contract if the team successfully obtains award. Judge Hughes of the Richmond Circuit Court recently considered related questions in the context of a suit by a scorned teaming subcontractor. As framed by Judge Hughes, the lead question for him on summary judgment was whether the teaming agreement was merely an agreement to agree.

Defendant’s main contentions for the proposition were 1): no duration for the prospective subcontract was set in the teaming agreement; 2) the plaintiff subcontractor was not a Local Small Business or Local Small Business Enterprises as called for in the teaming agreement; and 3) the teaming agreement included a provision that provided: “Nothing herein shall be deemed to create a presumption that the parties have agreed to exclusively respond with the other.” Noting the case was before him on summary judgment, Judge Hughes rejected all three arguments.

Regarding the first, he held that the subcontract duration could be implied; that is, duration would be tied to the nature of the teaming prime’s contract with the owner – or, as he noted in his opinion, “In other words, the duration of the parties’ sub-contractual undertaking will be determined by the length of defendant’s general contract.”

Regarding the second, he held that, based on the wording of the LSB / LSBE requirement in the teaming agreement (e.g., “throughout the term of the Contract”), the compliance requirement did not arise until when and if the parties themselves contracted, and so the LSB / LSBE requirement did not come into play until the underlying contract itself came into play; and so the team subcontractor’s not meting those requirements for the teaming agreement was not fatal.

Finally, regarding the third, he held that the provision relied upon merely expressed the parties’ agreement that the teaming agreement did not create any presumptions, and that nothing about the provision excluded the existence of a contractual relationship as alleged in the complaint; only that exclusivity existed between those parties relating to the project.

In ruling on the summary judgment motion, Judge Hughes noted that the enforceability of the teaming subcontract would be subject to later proof; however, he concluded the defendant’s arguments were insufficient, as argued, for him to grant summary judgment and preclude the scorned subcontractor from presenting that proof. This is a helpful case for teaming agreement drafters, or litigators; although the outcome seems strongly tied – as are all of these cases – to the wording of the particular teaming agreement.

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