E-mail snafu no reason to disqualify company's bid

The Federal Claims Court ruled that a company's bid proposal was not late because it "was both reached and received by the government's e-mail servers before the due date."

Rain nor snow nor flooded e-mail servers will stop the delivery of a contract proposal.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers should not have disqualified a bid because it arrived via e-mail four minutes after the noon deadline.

The proposal from Watterson Construction Co. was held up because the Corps e-mail servers were in the midst of a “mail storm,” causing unusual delays in distributing e-mails.

Judge Susan Braden ruled that the company’s bid was not late because it “was both reached and received by the government’s e-mail servers before the due date.”

According to the decision, a mail storm is an “e-mail sent to a large number of users, a sufficient number of whom reply to all, flooding an e-mail system and disabling it.”

“Watterson’s proposal was improperly eliminated from the competition, as the disturbance in the Army Corps’ servers entitled Watterson to a one-day time extension,” Braden wrote in her ruling.

Braden wrote that today’s e-mails are sent instantaneously in the ordinary course of business, and a problem such as a mail storm is abnormal. The judge concluded then that the mail storm was an “emergency or unanticipated event.” As a result of the emergency, the Federal Acquisition Regulation extends the deadline to bidders for 24 hours.

“It is true that at the time proposals were due, the Army Corps Office was open for business and proposals could have been delivered by hand,” Braden wrote. “The court, however, does not construe the phrase ‘proposals cannot be received’ to mean that it must be impossible for the government to receive proposals, before the ‘emergency’ or ‘unanticipated event’ exception applies.”