Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Hirt v. Walgreen Co.
Hirt, owner of Andy’s Pharmacies, alleged that Walgreen Company distributed kickbacks ($25 gift cards) to Medicare and Medicaid recipients when they transferred their prescriptions to Walgreens, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b(b). Hirt claimed that Walgreens violated the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729, by sending these fraudulent insurance claims to the government. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of his qui tam suit. Individual plaintiffs cannot bring qui tam complaints based upon information already in the public domain and must state with “particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake.” Hirt’s complaint described the unlawful distribution of gift cards in general but not the submission of any claims obtained with those gift cards. He did not identify customers, dates on which they filled prescriptions at Walgreens, dates on which Walgreens filed reimbursement claims with the government, or even say that these unnamed customers filled any prescriptions at Walgreens at all, let alone that Walgreens processed them and filed reimbursement claims with the government. He did not allege personal knowledge of Walgreen’s claim submission procedures or allege facts “from which it is highly likely that a claim was submitted to the government.” View "Hirt v. Walgreen Co." on Justia Law
Great American Insurance Co. v. E.L. Bailey & Co.
The State of Michigan contracted with E.L. Bailey to construct a prison kitchen. After delays, the parties sued each other for breach of contract. Bailey had obtained surety bonds from Great American Insurance Company (GAIC) and had agreed to assign GAIC the right to settle claims related to the project if Bailey allegedly breached the contract. Exercising that right, GAIC negotiated with the state without Bailey’s knowledge, then obtained a declaratory judgment recognizing its right to settle. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting, for insufficient evidence, a claim that GAIC settled Bailey’s claims against the state in bad faith. Although “there can be bad faith without actual dishonesty or fraud,” when “the insurer is motivated by selfish purpose or by a desire to protect its own interests at the expense of its insured’s interest,” “offers of compromise” or “honest errors of judgment are not sufficient to establish bad faith.” There was no evidence that GAIC’s settlement of Bailey’s claims was undertaken with selfish purpose at Bailey’s expense. GAIC and Bailey shared an interest in securing the highest settlement possible from the state. Even if GAIC misunderstood Michigan law, leading it to miscalculate its liability and accept a lower settlement, “honest errors of judgment are not sufficient to establish bad faith.” View "Great American Insurance Co. v. E.L. Bailey & Co." on Justia Law
Prather v. Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc.
Brookdale Senior Living hired Prather to review documentation related to thousands of Brookdale residents who had received home-health services from Brookdale. Medicare claims regarding those patients were on hold and Brookdale faced possible recoupment of payments it had received if it did not review and submit final Medicare claims. Prather noticed that the required certifications stating that the doctor had decided that the patient needed home-health services, established a plan of care, and met with the patient, were signed long after care was provided. Prather repeatedly raised this issue, but was rebuffed. Brookdale, facing financial disaster, began paying doctors to complete the paperwork months after treatment was provided. Prather thought that Brookdale was not just asking treating physicians to complete forgotten paperwork, but had provided the services without physician involvement and then found doctors willing to validate the care after-the-fact. Prather's suit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729, was dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed as to unlawful retention of payments. Completing certifications months after the fact was not “as soon as possible” after the plan was established, as required by regulations. Prather provided a detailed description of the alleged fraudulent scheme and her personal knowledge. Affirming dismissal of her false-records claim, the court concluded that Prather failed to plead with particularity the use of government forms to certify falsely that care had been provided under a doctor’s orders, or that unnecessary care had been provided. View "Prather v. Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc." on Justia Law
Samaan v. Gen. Dynamics Land Sys., Inc.
Samaan, a General Dynamics engineer since 1977, believed that the company was using the wrong shock-and-vibration testing methods on Stryker armored vehicles developed for use by the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, which led, in turn, to submission of purportedly erroneous reports detailing the shock-and-vibration specifications for the vehicles. Samaan alleged that from 2004-2010 he repeatedly raised his concerns and eventually “filed a formal claim of data misrepresentation, fraud, and retaliation” with the Human Resources Department in 2010. General Dynamics allegedly gave Samaan his first poor performance evaluation in 2011, with a statement that his evaluation “would improve if he would ‘forget’ about the testing misrepresentation and fraud.” Samaan eventually took his concerns to the Army. He was suspended without pay, then filed suit, alleging retaliation, and resigned. An arbitrator, required by Samaan’s employment agreement, issued an award in favor of the Company, which the district court declined to vacate. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the procedures employed during arbitration and stating that the Federal Arbitration Act does not allow for vacatur based on the fulfillment of moral and ethical obligations. View "Samaan v. Gen. Dynamics Land Sys., Inc." on Justia Law
Mountain States Contractors, LLC v. Perez
The Tennessee Department of Transportation engaged Mountain States to build two bridges over the Cumberland River at its intersection with Highway 109 in Gallatin. On May 21, 2013, the boom cable of a Terex HC 165 crane snapped while the crane operator was excavating material from under water, causing the boom—the extendable overhead arm of the crane controlled by the load-bearing wire boom cable—to collapse onto the adjacent highway. As the cable broke under tension, it whipped back to shatter the windows of the crane operator’s cab and the boom hit a passing vehicle. Though no person was injured, the subsequent OSHA investigation determined that at least four people were exposed to risk as a result of the accident. An Administrative Law Judge determined that Mountain States had committed a willful violation of the wire rope inspection standard of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act because, before the accident, Mountain States had knowledge that the boom cable had “visible broken wires” within the meaning of the provision requiring repair or replacement before further use. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the citation and penalty, finding substantial evidence to support findings of constructive and actual knowledge. View "Mountain States Contractors, LLC v. Perez" on Justia Law
United States v. Kettering Health Network
Relator brought a qui tam action (False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730(b)), alleging KHN (network of hospitals, physicians, and healthcare facilities) falsely certified its compliance with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), 123 Stat. 226 (2009), to receive “meaningful use” incentive payments. HITECH was designed to encourage the adoption of sophisticated electronic health record technology and creates incentive payments for “meaningful use” of certified technology, 42 U.S.C. 1395. To receive incentive payments, providers must meet meaningful-use objectives and accompanying compliance measures. Stage 1 of Act implementation required a security risk analysis in accordance with 45 C.F.R. 164.308(a)(1); implementation of need security updates; and correction of identified security deficiencies. During Stage 2, providers are required to address the encryption/security of data stored in Certified EHR Technology in accordance with 45 C.F.R. 164.312(a)(2)(iv) and 164.306(d)(3). To receive incentive payments, providers must attest to meeting these standards. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal, finding that Relator failed to plausibly allege that KHN’s attestation of HITECH compliance was false and failed to plead a specific claim for payment; and that Relator’s claims were precluded by a prior Ohio state judgment in a case involving similar claims filed by Relator against KHN. View "United States v. Kettering Health Network" on Justia Law
Wall v. Circle C Constr., LLC
Over the course of seven years, Circle C, a contractor that built 42 warehouses at Fort Campbell Army base, paid some electricians about $9,900 less than the Davis-Bacon (40 U.S.C. 3142) wages specified in its contract with the Army. The government obtained a damages award of $763,000 under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729, arguing that all of the electrical work was “tainted” by the $9,900 underpayment and, therefore, worthless. The Sixth Circuit, reversed the damage award and remanded for entry of an award of $14,748. Actual damages are the difference in value between what the government bargained for and what the government received. The government bargained for the buildings and payment of Davis-Bacon wages. It got the buildings but not quite all of the wages. The shortfall was $9,916--the government’s actual damages. That amount tripled is $29,748 (31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(G)). Minus a $15,000 settlement payment, Circle C is liable for a total of $14,748. View "Wall v. Circle C Constr., LLC" on Justia Law
United States v. Javidan
In 2008, Javidan shadowed Shahab, who was involved with fraudulent home-health agencies. Javidan, Shahab, and two others purchased Acure Home Care. Javidan managed Acure, signing Medicare applications and maintaining payroll. She had sole signature authority on Acure’s bank account and, was solely responsible for Medicare billing. Javidan illegally recruited patients by paying “kickbacks” to corrupt physicians and by using “marketers” to recruit patients by offering cash or prescription medications in exchange for Medicare numbers and signatures on blank Medicare forms. Javidan hired Meda as a physical therapist. Meda signed revisit notes for patients that he did not visit. He told Javidan which patients were not homebound and which demanded money for their Medicare information. The government charged both with health care fraud conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 1347) and conspiracy to receive kickbacks (18 U.S.C. 371). At trial, Javidan testified that she did not participate in and was generally unaware of Acure’s fraudulent business practices. Meda called no witnesses. Javidan and Meda were sentenced to terms of 65 and 46 months of imprisonment, respectively. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Meda’s claims that his conviction violated the Double Jeopardy Clause and that he was subjected to prosecutorial vindictiveness for refusing to plead guilty and requesting a jury trial in prior case and Javidan’s claims of improper evidentiary rulings and sentence calculation errors. View "United States v. Javidan" on Justia Law
Kreipke v. Wayne State Univ.
Plaintiff filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., and for defamation under Michigan law, alleging that WSU engaged in a fraudulent scheme to inflate the amount of funding that it received from the federal government for research grants and that he was fired in retaliation for complaining about the scheme to university officials and refusing to participate in it. The court concluded that the district court correctly held that WSU is an arm of the State of Michigan and therefore not a “person” subject to liability under the FCA; the district court was correct in dismissing plaintiff’s defamation claim as barred by the Eleventh Amendment; plaintiff failed to plead his conspiracy and “Reverse False Claim Act” claims with particularity under Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b); plaintiff's argument that his retaliation claim under the FCA should not have been dismissed because, while WSU may not be a “person” under the FCA, WSU is an “employer” under the FCA that may still be sued for retaliation, is forfeited; and the district court properly denied plaintiff’s request to amend the complaint as futile. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Kreipke v. Wayne State Univ." on Justia Law