Articles Posted in U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals

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During the Iraq War, the U.S. military established the Radwaniyah Palace Complex as a base of operations. Staff Sergeant Maseth was stationed there and assigned to live in a barracks building that predated the war and was known to have significant electrical problems. In 2008, Staff Sergeant Maseth died by electrocution while taking a shower in the barracks. The shower was electrified by an ungrounded, unbonded water pump. Maseth’s estate and his parents sued KBR, a military contractor hired to perform maintenance services at the barracks. The district court dismissed, holding that the case was nonjusticiable and, alternatively, that the claims were preempted by the federal policy embodied in the Federal Tort Claims Act’s combatant activities exception, 28 U.S.C. 2680(j). The Third Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the claims are not preempted by the combatant activities exception and reasoning that the political question issue requires a preliminary determination of which state’s law controls. View "Harris v. Kellogg Brown & Root Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

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TriCenturion audited Nichole Medical as a Program Safeguard Contractor under the Medicare Integrity Program, 42 U.S.C. 395ddd(a), and concluded that Nichole “might” be improperly billing for medical equipment; that Nichole had received overpayments; and that it had not maintained sufficient medical records to establish reasonableness or medical necessity. TriCenturion directed Nichole’s carrier, HealthNow, to withhold payments. TriCenturion calculated the actual overpayment of several specific claims, used those as a representative sampling, and extrapolated an overpayment amount for all relevant claims. The Attorney General found no evidence of fraud and refused to prosecute; HealthNow stopped withholding payments. TriCenturion instructed HealthNow’s successor to re-institute the offset. Nichole went out of business, but pursued an appeal. An ALJ determined that Nichole was entitled to reimbursement on some, but not all, appealed claims and found that the process for arriving at the extrapolated overpayment was flawed. The Medicare Appeals Council found that all 39 claims had been reopened and reviewed improperly. The district court dismissed Nichole’s suit against TriCenturion, which alleged torts and breach of the statutory duty of care under 42 U.S.C. 1320c-6(b). The Third Circuit affirmed. Defendants are immune from suit as officers or employees of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. View "Nichole Medical Equip & Supply, Inc. v. Tricenturion, Inc." on Justia Law

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Stoerr pled guilty to bid rigging, 15 U.S.C. 1; conspiracy to provide kickbacks and to defraud the United States, 18 U.S.C. 371; and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2). The convictions stemmed from kickback payments that Stoerr solicited and accepted from sub-contractors in connection with environmental remediation projects managed by Sevenson, his employer from 1980 to October 2003. In total, the district court determined that the scheme resulted in losses of $134,098.96 to the EPA and $257,129.22 to Tierra. After Sevenson learned of the kickbacks scheme, it paid Tierra approximately $241,000 to compensate for its losses. It then commenced a civil action against Stoerr in state court to recover its losses, and sought restitution in connection with Stoerr’s sentencing, under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act, 18 U.S.C. 3663A, for reimbursement of the amount that it paid to Tierra. The district court denied Sevenson‟s request for restitution, instead ordering that Stoerr pay restitution to Tierra. The Third Circuit dismissed; as a non-party, Sevenson lacks standing to appeal. View "United States v. Stoerr" on Justia Law

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Jewish Home of Eastern Pennsylvania (JHEP) provides nursing care to Medicare beneficiaries and is required to comply with the mandatory health and safety requirements for participation. JHEP must submit to random surveys conducted by state departments of health. In 2005, the Pennsylvania Department of Health conducted a survey that concluded that JHEP had eight regulatory deficiencies, including violations of 42 C.F.R. 483.25(h)(2), which requires a facility to ensure that each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance with devices to prevent accidents. Based on those deficiencies and those found in a 2006 survey, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services imposed fines totaling $17,150 and $12,800. JHEP claimed that the allegations of noncompliance were based on the inadmissible disclosure of privileged‖ quality assurance records and that the monetary penalties violated its right to equal protection because they were the product of selective enforcement based on race and religion. An ALJ upheld the fines against JHEP. The Third Circuit denied a petition for review. View "Jewish Home of E. PA v. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Servs." on Justia Law

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In 1957 the Commonwealth constructed the Quehanna Wild Area Nuclear Site. Part of the site was donated to Pennsylvania State University. Until 1967 Penn State leased to a Lockheed predecessor, conducting work under Atomic Energy Commission contracts, involving Strontium-90, a radioactive isotope. The predecessor partially decontaminated. According to Lockheed, the Commonwealth was aware that Strontium-90 remained and could not be removed without dismantling the facility. In the 1990s, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered the Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to decommission the facility. This cost more than $20 million. PADEP sued Lockheed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. 9607(a). Lockheed defended that the Commonwealth should recover less than its demand based on its own conduct and liability and the doctrines of unclean hands, estoppel, waiver, and laches. Lockheed also alleged that PADEP was liable under CERCLA as an owner-operator and as having arranged for or transported hazardous substances. The district court dismissed Lockheed’s third-party complaint, concluding that the Commonwealth and DCNR retained Eleventh Amendment immunity when PADEP filed a federal suit. The Third Circuit vacated with instructions to dismiss the third party complaint as moot, based on the sufficiency of Lockheed’s affirmative defenses. View "Commonwealth of PA Dep' of Envtl. Prot. v. Lockheed Martin Corp." on Justia Law

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Andrews was designated as contractor for improvements to the sewage system, in a no-bid process involving kickbacks and bribery, having made numerous false statements in the bond application package. After the contract was terminated, he submitted a claim of $748,304, based on false statements and duplicate charges. Evidence indicated that Andrews was not capable of the project work and that the entire scheme was fraudulent. He was convicted of one count of conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371, four counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1346, and 2, one count of program fraud, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B) and 2, one count of making a false claim upon the Government of the Virgin Islands, 14 V.I.C. 843(4), and one count of inducing a conflict of interest, 3 V.I.C. 1102, 1103, and 1107. The Third Circuit affirmed the conviction, but remanded for resentencing. Errors in the indictment and jury instructions concerning honest services fraud did not affect substantial rights. Although the 151-month term of imprisonment was within the statutory maximum for Counts Two through Five, it exceeded the statutory maximum for Counts One and Six; it was not possible to determine whether the sentence was legal as to each count View "United States v. Andrew" on Justia Law

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Two U.S. Army Reserve officers, deployed to Iraq in 2003 to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, were convicted of conspiracy under 18 U.S.C.371, for participating in a bid-rigging scheme that involved directing millions of dollars in contracts to companies owned by an American businessman. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence to establish participation in the conspiracy; to denial of a motion to suppress; and to denial of immunity for a co-conspirator. View "United States v. Whiteford" on Justia Law

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Defendant accepted $1,000 and Mets tickets for helping a consulting company obtain a contract with the county for temporary employment of individuals for clean-up after a 2006 flood. He pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B). The presentence report recommended a sentence of 15 to 21 months' imprisonment. USSG 2C1.2(a)(1) set the base offense level at 11; the report added two levels under 2C1.2(b)(1) because the offense involved more than one gratuity and four levels under 2C1.2(b)(3) because the offense involved a public official in a high-level decision-making or sensitive position. It subtracted three levels for acceptance of responsibility (3E1.1). The district court imposed a sentence of 15 months' imprisonment. The Third Circuit affirmed. Defendant could not hire or fire; could not bind the county; could not act officially on the county's behalf; had administrative, not policymaking, duties; and reported to superiors, who reported to County Commissioners. The high-level government official enhancement was not applied to his superior, also implicated in the bribery scheme. Defendant was, however, responsible for the human resource department. View "United States v. Richards" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Steel Products Procurement Act,73 Pa. Cons. Stat. 1881-1887, prohibits the use of temporary bridges made out of foreignsteel on public works projects. The district court rejected a claim that the law was preempted by the Buy America Act, 23 U.S.C. 313, and that it violated the Commerce Clause, Contract Clause, and Equal Protection Clause. The Third Circuit affirmed. The federal Act contemplates more restrictive state laws. The state law was authorized by Congress, is rational, and did not, at its enactment, impair plaintiff's existing contracts. View "Mabey Bridge & Shore, Inc. v. Schoch" on Justia Law