KNOX COUNTY ASSOCIATION FOR RETARDED CITIZENS, INC. v. NISH
ENTRY ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT - The Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the Defendant's motion #53 and DENIES the Plaintiff's motion #56 . Summary judgment in GRANTED in favor of NISH on both claims in Knox's Amended Complaint. (See Entry.) Signed by Judge William T. Lawrence on 2/20/2013. (RSF)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
KNOX COUNTY ASSOCIATION FOR
RETARDED CITIZENS, INC.,
) CAUSE NO. 2:11-cv-313-WTL-WGH
ENTRY ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This cause is before the Court on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. Both
motions are fully briefed and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the Defendant’s motion
(dkt. no. 53) and DENIES the Plaintiff’s motion (dkt. no. 56) for the reasons set forth below.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if
the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the
admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable
inferences must be drawn in the non-movant’s favor. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476
F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view
the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences
in that party’s favor.”). In this case there is no dispute between the parties with regard to what
the facts are; their dispute is how the law should be applied to those facts.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
A. The AbilityOne Program
Pursuant to the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, 41 U.S.C. § 8501, et seq., entities of the federal
government generally are required to procure certain products and services from “a qualified
nonprofit agency for the blind or a qualified nonprofit agency for other severely disabled” in
accordance with regulations established by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are
Blind or Severely Disabled (“the Committee”). The program established by the regulations
promulgated by the Committee (hereinafter referred to generally as “the Regulations”) is
commonly known as the “AbilityOne Program.” See 41 C.F.R. § 51-1.3, et seq. Plaintiff Knox
County Association for Retarded Citizens, Inc., (“Knox”) is a qualified nonprofit agency that
participates in the AbilityOne Program.
Pursuant to the AbilityOne Program, the Committee maintains a “Procurement List,” which
is a catalog of those services and products that the Committee has determined to be suitable to be
furnished to federal entities by nonprofit agencies for the blind or nonprofit agencies employing
persons with severe disabilities. The Procurement List identifies the name and national stock
number or item designation with respect to each item. The Committee also determines the fair
market price of the products on the Procurement List.
Pursuant to the Regulations, a “central nonprofit agency” is designated “to facilitate the
distribution (by direct allocation, subcontract, or any other means) of orders of the Government
for commodities and services on the Procurement List among nonprofit agencies employing
persons who are blind or have other severe disabilities, to provide information required by the
Committee to implement the [AbilityOne Program] and to otherwise assist the Committee in
administering [the Regulations].” 41 C.F.R. § 51-1.3. Defendant NISH has been designated by
the Committee to represent nonprofit agencies employing persons with severe disabilities other
than blindness. 41 C.F.R. §51-3.1. To that end, NISH has various obligations under the
Regulations, including a responsibility to “[d]istribute within the policy guidelines of the
Committee (by direct allocation, subcontract, or any other means) orders from Government
[entities] among its nonprofit agencies.” 41 C.F.R. § 51-3.2.
The Regulations set forth the following procedure to be used when a government entity
wishes to purchase goods or services contained on the Procurement List. The entity in question,
the “ordering office,” must submit a written request for allocation to the designated central
nonprofit agency. 48 C.F.R. § 8.705-3(a). “Allocation” is defined as “an action taken by a
central nonprofit agency to designate the AbilityOne participating nonprofit agencies that will
furnish definite quantities of supplies or perform specific services upon receipt of orders from
ordering offices.” 48 C.F.R. § 8.701. “When an allocation is received, the ordering office shall
promptly issue an order to the specified AbilityOne participating nonprofit agency or to the
central nonprofit agency, as instructed by the allocation.” 48 C.F.R. § 8.705-3(c). In other
words, the ordering office asks NISH to designate a particular nonprofit agency to fill a
particular order and then places the order with the designated agency. NISH “may charge fees to
nonprofit agencies for facilitating their participation in the AbilityOne Program . . . [which] shall
be calculated based on nonprofit agency sales to the Government under the AbilityOne Program .
. . [and] shall not exceed the fee limit approved by the Committee. 41 C.F.R. § 51-3.5. At all
times relevant to this case, the applicable fee limit was 3.75% of sales made under the
B. The Memorandum of Understanding and Addendum
In April 2006, in anticipation of the United States Army’s need to purchase certain cold
weather garments1 that are included on the Procurement List, a document entitled “Memorandum
of Understanding Between NISH Products and Eligible Gen III (ECWCS) NPA Producers” (“the
MOU”) was executed by NISH, Knox, and another qualified nonprofit agency participating in
the AbilityOne Program, Peckham Vocational Industries (“Peckham”). The MOU read as
The U.S. ARMY solicitation for the Gen III Extended Cold Weather Clothing
System (Gen III ECWCS) contains (5) garments of the (12) garment system that
are on the procurement list (PL). The solicitation for one or more prime
contractors will refer interested bidders to NISH Products for the JWOD price and
the non profit agency (NPA) to work with on their bid. The contract award is
expected on June 29, 2006. This will be a minimum10,000 to maximum 240,000
unit/year contract for (5) years.
• This agreement applies to requirement for Gen III ECWCS allocations,
including allocations by replacement rules, to be procured under JWOD
• To consider all NPA producers currently on the PL for one or more
garments in the Gen III ECWCS solicitation, or that are on the PL for one
or more garments previously included in ECWCS and replaced by
garments in the Gen III ECWCS.
• Establish the JWOD price for each garment with input from eligible NPA
• To provide multiple NPA producers on the PL for each Gen III ECWCS
• To meet the requirements of the solicitation by providing bidders for the
prime contract a NPA producer and the JWOD price for each garment.
• To document the allocation plan to meet the GEN III (ECWCS)
requirements for garments to be procured under JWOD authority.
It appears that the actual contract for purchasing the garments in question was entered
into by another government entity; as the distinction is irrelevant to the issues in this case, the
Court will simply refer to the purchaser as the Army.
• NISH Products will allocate to Peckham Inc. work to manufacture PDMs
for all bidders under the solicitation for the prime contract – Gen III
ECWCS at the agreed to JWOD price.
• NISH will inform the bidder and the government customer as to who is the
manufacturer of origin for the PDMs.
• NISH Products will allocate to Peckham, Inc. up to documented capability
and capacity all JWOD layers, Gen III ECWCS, except the Shirt,
MidWeight Cold Weather.
• [Knox] will have the allocation of the Shirt, Midweight Cold Weather
based on the rules of replacement, up to documented capability and
• NISH Products will allocate work exceeding documented capacities to
other eligible NPA(s).
• NISH reserves the right to maintain multiple NPA producers on the PL for
each Gen III ECWCS garment and to re-allocate work as required to meet
the requirements of the contract and JWOD program regulations.
• All allocations of JWOD work are subject to favorable NPA standing with
JWOD regulations and customer satisfaction.
• NISH is obligated to allocate or re-allocate all projects in part or in full as
required to meet its responsibilities to the JWOD program.
• This action supercedes all prior agreements relative to the total
requirement for Gen III ECWCS allocations, including allocations by
replacement rules, to be procured under JWOD authority.
In other words, NISH was to allocate 100% of the midweight cold weather shirts (the
“Shirts”) purchased by the Army to Knox, up to Knox’s “documented capability and
In August 2008, NISH, Knox, and Peckham executed an Addendum to the MOU.
The Addendum provided that it would “alter a portion of the original MOU to adjust the
percentage of work allocated under AbilityOne authority for [the Shirts]” but that “[a]ll
other conditions of the original MOU dated April 2006 remain in place.” The new
agreement was set forth as follows:
NISH Products will allocate to [Knox] seventy-five percent (75%) of the total
annual AbilityOne quantity procured by the Army. The remaining twenty-five
percent (25%) will be allocated to Peckham in exchange for their development
efforts and for free mentoring, training and support provided by Peckham. The
schedule for said mentoring, training and support will be mutually convenient to
both parties. In addition to a complete production binder containing
manufacturing steps, material supplier contacts, patterns, equipment information,
product descriptions, spreading and cutting instructions, measurements, [Knox] is
welcome to visit Peckham and Peckham agrees to send three people for a
maximum of three days to [Knox] to assist with production start-up. Knox and
Peckham will work together, combining AbilityOne purchasing power, to obtain
the best pricing and best delivery schedule for the major materials. The pricing
and delivery schedules will be agreeable to both [Knox] and Peckham.
The Addendum reiterated that “NISH is obligated to allocate or re-allocate all projects in part, or
in full, as required to meet its responsibilities to the AbilityOne Program.”
C. The Allocation
In January 2009, in advance of providing the Allocation to the Army, NISH sent a letter
to Knox in which it set out three possible scenarios regarding the number of Shirts that might be
ordered by the Army. The first scenario was a minimum order of 170,000 Shirts, 75% of which
would be 127,500, or 10,625 per month. NISH noted: “[Knox] has provided a production
schedule, with demand for this quantity being met after 24 weeks of production time. . . . Per our
conversations, [Knox] believes that it can improve upon this schedule, and can meet monthly
requirements by week 16 of production.” The second scenario was what NISH believed “could
be the actual first buy of this garment” by the Army: 680,000 Shirts, 75% of which would be
510,000, or 42,500 per month. NISH asked Knox to provide a production schedule showing how
it would meet that demand. The third scenario involved a maximum quantity of 825,000 Shirts;
NISH noted that Knox “also needs to have a ramp up schedule on file to meet this requirement, if
and when, it is ordered.”
In response to NISH’s letter, Knox replied that it would begin at a monthly rate of 2150
Shirts and reach a maximum monthly output of 21,200 Shirts after a 44-week ramp-up period.
The maximum 21,200 Shirts per month equates to 254,400 garments per year.
On June 2, 2009, NISH provided to the Army two documents (“the Allocations”) in
which it set forth the allocations for the Shirts. The Allocations set forth the following
In the “base year”: minimum 9,350 and maximum 131,100 to Knox; minimum 160,650
and maximum 693,900 to Peckham
In the “option year 1”: minimum 63,600 and maximum 254,400 to Knox; minimum
142,650 and maximum 570,600 to Peckham
No percentages were referenced in the Allocations.
On June 26, 2009, Knox and the Army entered into a contract pursuant to which Knox
was to supply, and the Army was to purchase, the following quantities of Shirts: a minimum of
9,350 and a maximum of 131,100 in the base year; a minimum of 52,700 and a maximum of
254,400 in the option year.
Knox completed its ramp-up in April 2010, at which time it was able to produce 21,200
Shirts per month. After that date, the Army issued Delivery Order #4, pursuant to which it
ordered 21,840 Shirts from Knox over a four-month period and 87,888 Shirts from Peckham
over a three-month period. In Delivery Order #5, the Army ordered 15,000 Shirts from Knox
over a three-month period and 90,000 Shirts from Peckham over a 3-month period. In December
2010, NISH issued a Revised Allocation which provided that Knox was to receive 75% of the
Army’s Shirt orders, up to a maximum of 21,200 per month.
Knox’s Amended Complaint contains two counts, one for breach of contract and the
other for promissory estoppel. Each claim is addressed, in turn, below.
A. Breach of Contract
Knox’s breach of contract claim is based upon its allegation that prior to the issuance of
the Revised Allocations in December 2010, NISH failed to make the allocations it promised to
make in the MOU and the Addendum. Specifically, Knox alleges that NISH promised that Knox
would be allocated 75% of the total number of Shirts purchased by the Army up to its maximum
capability and capacity, but that it was in fact allocated a far smaller percentage in Delivery
Orders Nos. 4 and 5 because of the manner in which NISH set forth the maximum and minimum
quantities for Knox and Peckham in the original Allocations.
As an initial matter, the Court notes that the parties disagree whether Indiana or Virginia
law should be applied to Knox’s claims. However, it is necessary for the Court to resolve choice
of law conflicts “only when a difference in law will make a difference to the outcome,”
International Adm’rs v. Life Ins. Co., 753 F.2d 1373, 1376 n. 4 (7th Cir.1985), and the parties
agree that there is no relevant substantive difference between Indiana and Virginia contract law.
Accordingly, the Court will apply the law of the forum state—Indiana—to Knox’s breach of
NISH argues that it cannot be liable for breach of contract because no contract existed
between it and Knox. The Court agrees.
[I]n order to have a legally binding contract there must be generally an offer,
acceptance, and consideration. To constitute consideration, there must be a benefit
accruing to the promisor or a detriment to the promisee. A benefit is a legal right
given to the promisor to which the promisor would not otherwise be entitled. A
detriment on the other hand is a legal right the promisee has forborne. The doing
of an act by one at the request of another which may be a detrimental
inconvenience, however slight, to the party doing it or may be a benefit, however
slight, to the party at whose request it is performed, is legal consideration for a
promise by such requesting party. In the end, consideration—no matter what its
form—consists of a bargained-for exchange.
Indiana Dept. of State Revenue v. Belterra Resort Indiana, LLC, 935 N.E.2d 174, 179 (Ind.
2010) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In this case, while NISH set forth its
intention to make a certain allocation in favor of Knox, it received no consideration from Knox
in exchange. Knox did not undertake any obligation to NISH in or as a result of the MOU and
Addendum. Had Knox decided not to contract with the Army—or if Knox had contracted with
the Army and then failed to perform under that contract—NISH would not have had any
recourse against Knox under the MOU and Addendum because they did not require Knox to do
anything. Accordingly, there was no consideration for any promise made by NISH to Knox, and
therefore no contract was formed between them.
Knox argues that the fee NISH received in the form of 3.75% of its sales to the Army
constituted the requisite consideration. This argument misses the mark, however. NISH was
entitled to its fee only in the event that Knox actually made sales to the Army, and its entitlement
to the fee was established by regulation, not by contract. The fee NISH eventually got cannot
constitute consideration for the MOU and the Addendum when the condition precedent for the
entitlement to the fee—Knox making sales to the Army—was not required by the MOU and the
Addendum. Again, Knox could have decided not to enter into a contract with the Army without
breaching any contractual obligation to NISH; had it made that unilateral decision, NISH would
not have received any fee at all from Knox, even if NISH had wholly performed its obligations to
Knox as set forth in the MOU and the Addendum.
Because there was no contract between NISH and Knox, NISH is entitled to summary
judgment on Knox’s breach of contract claim.
B. Promissory Estoppel
Unlike the breach of contract claim, there is a substantive difference between Indiana and
Virginia law that is relevant to Knox’s claim for promissory estoppel: the parties agree that
Indiana recognizes such a claim, while Virginia does not. Accordingly, it is necessary for the
Court to undergo the choice of law analysis with regard to Knox’s promissory estoppel claim.
Because a federal court sitting in diversity jurisdiction applies the choice of law rules of
the forum state, Land v. Yahama Motor Corp., 272 F.3d 514, 516 (7th Cir. 2001), Indiana choice
of law rules must be applied in this case. Indiana applies contract choice of law rules to claims
for promissory estoppel. See Eby v. York-Division, Borg-Warner, 455 N.E.2d 623, 626 (Ind.
Indiana’s choice of law rule for actions on contract calls for applying the law of
the forum with the most intimate contacts to the facts. The court will consider all
acts of the parties touching the transaction in relation to the several states
involved and will apply as the law governing the transaction the law of that state
with which the facts are in most intimate contact. Indiana follows the approach
formulated by the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws. In the absence of
an effective choice of law by the parties, the contacts to be taken into account
(a) the place of contracting,
(b) the place of negotiation of the contract,
(c) the place of performance,
(d) the location of the subject matter of the contract, and
(e) the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of
business of the parties.
Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co. v. Dana Corp., 690 N.E.2d 285, 291 (Ind. App. 1997) (citations
In this case, the parties agree that there is no one place of contracting or negotiation, and
the parties are domiciled in different states, so the first two and the last factors are each a wash.
With regard to the remaining factors, Knox argues that the place of performance and the subject
matter of the MOU and the Addendum are both Indiana because “the purpose of this contract
was to induce [Knox] to undertake the manufacture of shirts in Indiana by employees working in
Indiana.” Knox Brief at 9. That argument is misplaced.2 As discussed above, the MOU and
Addendum did not require Knox to manufacture shirts, in Indiana or elsewhere. Rather, to the
extent that any promise was made in the MOU and the Addendum, it was NISH’s promise to
make an allocation of the Army’s shirt order. As Knox acknowledges, the place of performance
of that promise was NISH’s location—Virginia. Accordingly, Virginia had the most intimate
contacts with the promise that Knox seeks to enforce by means of its promissory estoppel claim,
and Virginia law applies to that claim.
Because the parties agree that Virginia does not recognize a claim for promissory
estoppel, NISH’s motion for summary judgment is granted as to that claim.
For the reasons set forth above, summary judgment in GRANTED in favor of NISH on
both claims in Knox’s Amended Complaint.
Knox also points out that “if Knox had failed to perform its duty to make payment to
NISH, then the choice of law analysis would suggest that Indiana law should apply” and notes
that “[t]he state with the most intimate contacts should not change based on which party
breached its obligation.” Knox Brief at 9. The problem with this argument is that Knox had no
obligation to pay NISH anything under the MOU and Addendum because Knox had no duty to
produce and/or sell any shirts until it entered into its contract with the Army. Any action for
nonpayment by NISH against Knox would have to be for breach of Knox’s duty under the
Regulations; it would not be a breach of contract action based upon the MOU and Addendum.
SO ORDERED: 02/20/2013
Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Copies to all counsel of record via electronic notification
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?