Thursday, May 3, 2018

What is the "Doctrine of Laches"?

The doctrine of laches means you are out of time.

In 2017, Anis Avasta Construction Company filed a claim with the ASBCA (Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals) claiming that the Air Force had not paid it for work performed in Afghanistan back in 2011. Anis Avasta Construction Company claimed that the Air Force awarded the company a contract to construct a water supply and storage facility and further claimed that it had fulfilled that contract but was not paid for the work.

There was a question as to whether a contract was ever executed and there was no contemporaneous evidence that work was ever performed. There was no communication between the Air Force and Anis Avasta between 2011 and 2017 by which time the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan prevented the Government from verifying that Anis Avasta had, in fact, constructed the water supply and storage facility. Additionally, no one from the Air Force had any recollection of the contract or that work had been performed.

The ASBCA stated that it didn't even need to consider whether a contract existed because the "doctrine of lachese" applied as a result of Anis Avasta's delay in pursuing the claim. Laches is an equitable doctrine under which relief is denied to one who unreasonably and inexcusably delays in the assertion of a claim, thereby causing injury or prejudice to the adverse party.

In this case, Anis Avasta waited over five years after it "purportedly" performed work before seeking compensation from the Government. That was unreasonable and prejudicial because, by the time Anis Avasta sought compensation, the contracting officer and other Air Force personnel that might have been involved no longer had any memory of the events. More importantly, the deteriorating security situation in that particular area of Afghanistan precluded the Government from ev en verifying that work had been performed.

Because Anis Avasta's delay prevented the Government from verifying that Anis Avasta performed the construction work, the ASBCA denied relief under the doctrine of laches.

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