• R.D. Lieberman,Consultant

What is a "Sum Certain?"

As used in Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) 52.233-1 (Disputes), a claim is a “ a written demand or written assertion by one of the contracting parties seeking, as a matter of right, the payment of money in a sum certain…” What is a “sum certain?” Consider these phrases:


“about $1,000.00” $1,000.00

“at least $500.00” exactly $500.00

“approximately $600.00” a fixed amount of $600.00

“no less than $750.00” a settled amount of $740.00

well over $800.00” a specific amount of $800.00

A “sum certain” simply means an exact amount, in dollars and cents, with no qualifiers. Contractors must understand that any claim submitted to a contracting officer must identify the “sum certain” that they are requesting. A contractor may not qualify its dollar amount with language (like the language above under “not a sum certain”) which makes the amount not a sum certain, and will cause a contracting officer, board or court to dismiss the claim. That’s precisely what happened in Odyssey Int’l, Inc., ASBCA No. 62062, Jan. 28, 2020.

Odyssey sought consequential damages on a construction contract from the Army Corps of Engineers in an amount of “at least $15,033,862.” The Board noted that any qualification to a numerical amount, such as “at least,” “approximately,” “no less than,” or “well over” prevents its consideration as a “sum certain.” The Board further stated that reliance upon the FAR’s definition of a claim is well settled in law, Reflectone, Inc. v. Dalton, 60 F. 3d 1572, 1575 (Fed. Cir. 1995 (en banc), and dismissed Odyssey’s claim for failure to state a sum certain.

Takeaway. Do not use qualifiers when making a monetary clam. State a specific sum certain. Even if the amount you claim must be based on estimates, use an exact sum certain that is the product of your calculations, and be prepared to support that sum.

For other helpful suggestions on government contracting, visit:

Richard D. Lieberman’s FAR Consulting & Training at https://www.richarddlieberman.com/, and Mistakes in Government Contracting at https://richarddlieberman.wixsite.com/mistakes.

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The website of Richard Donald Lieberman, a government contracts consultant and retired attorney who is the author of both "The 100 Worst Mistakes in Government Contracting" (with Jason Morgan) and "The 100 Worst Government Mistakes in Government Contracting." Richard Lieberman concentrates on Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) consulting and training, including  commercial item contracting (FAR Part 12), compliance with proposal requirements (FAR Part 15 negotiated procurement), sealed bidding (FAR Part 14), compliance with solicitation requirements, contract administration (FAR Part 42), contract modifications and changes (FAR Part 43), subcontracting and flowdown requirements (FAR Part 44), government property (FAR Part 45), quality assurance (FAR Part 46), obtaining invoiced payments owed to contractors,  and other compliance with the FAR. Mr.Lieberman is also involved in numerous community service activities.  See LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/richard-d-lieberman-3a25257a/.This website and blog are for educational and information purposes only.  Nothing posted on this website constitutes legal advice, which can only be obtained from a qualified attorney. Website Owner/Consultant does not engage in the practice of law and will not provide legal advice or legal services based on competence and standing in the law. Legal filings and other aspects of a legal practice must be performed by an appropriate attorney. Using this website does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Although the author strives to present accurate information, the information provided on this site is not guaranteed to be complete, correct or up-to-date.  The views expressed on this blog are solely those of the author. FAR Consulting & Training, Bethesda, Maryland, Tel. 202-520-5780, rliebermanconsultant@gmail.com

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