In a case that appears to be limited to very specific facts, the Supremes have denied cert in Virgilio v. New York and Motorola, No. 05-488, in which survivors of the FDNY firefighters who perished in the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11 filed suit against New York and Motorola, the company that manufactured the radios used by the firefighters. The families claimed the city entered into an unlawful "no bid" contract with Motorola, and that due to negligence on the part of the city and the company, the firefighters did not hear the order to evacuate the building. The lower court ruled that in accepting funds from the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund set up by Congress via the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act, the families waived their right to sue for damages arising out of the events of that day’s tragedies. More here from and here from the New York Times.

However, absent the Victim’s Compensation Fund and 9/11 angle, this could be any city, any local government unit – or any airport department or authority – dealing with survivors of deceased emergency personnel. Worker’s compensation laws would prevent suit against the government unit itself by the employees, but this could serve as another warning that failure to follow procurement guidelines can serve as the backdoor through which an unanticipated plaintiff litigates his grievances. Procurement is almost never the real issue, but it can be a way into the courthouse. AAs should caution purchasing personnel to follow the procurement guidelines governing their purchases very carefully, and train staff members to seek an AA’s advice in documenting the file, especially when an exception to competitive bidding is sought.