Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. From the first chapter in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Jarndyce and Jarndyce is a fictional court case in Chancery but there is another court case that almost fits Dickens’ morbid description………
The A-12 “Avenger II” was to be a carrier-based stealth attack aircraft for the US Navy that has been in the courts since 1991. The plaintiffs (McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics – since acquired by Boeing and Lockheed Martin respectively) sued for relief after the Navy terminated the A-12 development contract for default.
Based on the contractor’s Earned Value analysis that showed ‘catastrophic’ cost and schedule problems on this complex, multi-billion $ fixed price incentive contract, the then Sec. of Defense Dick Cheney withdrew his support for the program.
Wayne Abba was selected by the Department of Justice/Navy litigation team as a fact witness who could have an opinion about the EVM data because he had not been involved in the Government’s decision making process. Wayne testified in the 5th trial after the appellate court agreed with the government that performance (or lack thereof) was indeed an issue. His testimony helped set the stage for a reversal by the trial judge from his prior 4 decisions – a reversal that has been upheld by appellate courts since, most recently in June 2009; with further pleadings this month.
As Dickens continued…. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing how or why…… Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; …… but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.
This is an important decision for anyone involved in the proactive management of projects. If the US Governments position holds, reliable predictive data that clearly shows a ‘catastrophe’ in the making will allow project owners to take pre-emptive steps to protect their position. If the plaintiff contractors eventually prevail, the only safe option for owners will be to wait for the train wreck then try to pick up the pieces.
Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 18 years for an answer……….