Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Petras v. Simparel, Inc.
Third Circuit rejects "reverse" False Claims Act suit involving Small Business Administration.The SBA, a federal agency, provided $90 million to L Capital, a venture capital group, through the purchase of securities. L Capital invested $4 million in preferred shares of Simparel. The Certificate of Incorporation specified that Simparel must pay preferred shareholders accrued dividends if Simparel’s Board exercised its discretion to pay the dividends or if Simparel underwent liquidation, dissolution, or windup. The SBA was appointed as L Capital’s receiver after Simparel failed to comply with its funding agreement. Petras, Simparel’s Chief Financial Officer, claimed that this failure resulted in the SBA becoming a preferred shareholder, entitled to accrued dividends. The Simparel Board never declared dividends nor did Simparel undergo liquidation, dissolution, or windup. Petras claimed that the Simparel defendants engaged in fraudulent conduct—to which he objected—to avoid paying the contingent dividends: hiding Simparel’s deteriorating financial condition; failing to hold board meetings: and neglecting to send the SBA Simparel’s financial statements. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the “reverse FCA” claim. The Simparel defendants could not have “knowingly and improperly avoid[ed] or decrease[d] an obligation” to pay the accrued dividends at the time of their alleged misconduct because the obligation did not yet exist. View "Petras v. Simparel, Inc." on Justia Law
Petratos v. Genentech Inc
Qui tam relator failed to satisfy the False Claims Act’s materiality requirement in alleging that the manufacturer of a widely-prescribed cancer drug, Avastin, suppressed data that caused doctors to certify incorrectly that Avastin was “reasonable and necessary” for certain at-risk Medicare patients. Avastin is FDA-approved and has accounted for $1.13 billion a year in Medicare reimbursements. The relator, formerly the head of healthcare data analytics for the manufacturer, claimed the company ignored and suppressed data that would have shown that Avastin’s side effects for certain patients were more common and severe than reported and that such analyses would have required the company to file adverse event reports with the FDA, and could have resulted in changes to Avastin’s FDA label. He claimed the company caused physicians to submit Medicare claims that were not “reasonable and necessary.” The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the claim, stating the allegations may be true but a False Claims Act suit is not the appropriate way to address them. The manufacturer followed all pertinent statutes and regulations. If those laws and regulations are inadequate to protect patients, it falls to the other branches of government to reform them. View "Petratos v. Genentech Inc" on Justia Law
Alpha Painting & Construction Co., Inc. v. Delaware River Port Authority
In bidding to strip and repaint the Commodore Barry Bridge, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) rejected the lowest bidder, Alpha, as not a “responsible” contractor under its guidelines because Alpha failed to remit accident experience forms (OSHA 300) and insurance data (Experience Modification Factors) in its bid package. DRPA also declared that Corcon was actually the lowest bidder because of a “miscalculation” that DRPA perceived in Corcon’s bid. DRPA awarded the contract to Corcon. After its bid protest was denied, Alpha filed suit, seeking an injunction. The district court held a trial, concluded that DRPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and directed DRPA to award the contract to Alpha. The Third Circuit agreed that DRPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, but concluded that the court abused its discretion by directing that the contract be awarded to Alpha. DRPA did not establish a rational basis under its policies for labeling Alpha “not responsible” and ”the decision to modify Corcon’s bid appeared out of thin air.” DRPA’s Board of Commissioners gave virtually no attention to Alpha’s protest. Alpha should be restored to competition; DRPA should evaluate Alpha’s bid and affirmatively determine, per its guidelines, whether Alpha, the lowest bidder, is a “responsible” contractor. View "Alpha Painting & Construction Co., Inc. v. Delaware River Port Authority" on Justia Law
Papp v. Fore-Kast Sales Co Inc
Papp alleged that his late wife suffered secondary “take home” asbestos exposure while washing the work clothes of her first husband, Keck. Keck had several jobs that exposed him to asbestos. Papp sued multiple companies in New Jersey. In a deposition, he indicated that the landing gear Keck sandblasted was for a C-47 military cargo plane, built by Boeing’s predecessor. Boeing removed the case, citing the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). Boeing asserted that it was entitled to government contractor immunity because the C-47 was produced for, and under the specific supervision of, the U.S. military and that the supervision extended to labels and warnings for all parts of the aircraft, including those parts laden with the asbestos to which Keck would later be exposed. The district court remanded, reasoning that Boeing, as a contractor and not a federal officer, had a “special burden” to demonstrate “that a federal officer or agency directly prohibited Boeing from issuing, or otherwise providing, warnings as to the risks associated with exposure to asbestos contained in products on which third-parties … worked or otherwise provided services.” The Third Circuit reversed, holding that the statute extends to contractors who possess a colorable federal defense and that Boeing made a sufficient showing of such a defense. View "Papp v. Fore-Kast Sales Co Inc" on Justia Law
United Steel Paper and Forestry Rubber Manufacturing Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union AFL- CIO- CLC v. Government of the Virgin Islands
In 2011, in response to a severe budget crisis, the Government of the Virgin Islands enacted the Virgin Islands Economic Stability Act (VIESA), which reduced most government employees’ salaries by 8%. Many government employees were covered by collective bargaining agreements that set forth detailed salary and benefit schedules. Their unions sued, alleging that the VIESA salary reductions constituted an impermissible impairment of the collective bargaining agreements, in violation of the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution. The district court, after a bench trial, held that VIESA did not violate the Contract Clause. The Third Circuit reversed, first holding that the issue is not moot, although VIESA has expired. The court’s determination will have a preclusive effect in pending arbitration between the unions and the government, concerning wages not paid in the interim. VIESA’s substantial impairment of the collective bargaining agreements was not reasonable in light of the fact that the government knew of its precarious financial condition when it agreed to the contracts. View "United Steel Paper and Forestry Rubber Manufacturing Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union AFL- CIO- CLC v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law
Customs Fraud Investigations LLC v. Victaulic Co.
CFI, comprised of former insiders from the pipe fitting industry, brought a False Claims Act qui tam action against Victaulic, a global manufacturer and distributor of pipe fittings. The complaint alleged that Victaulic, for many years, imported millions of pounds of improperly marked pipe fittings without disclosing that the fittings are improperly marked, thereby avoiding paying marking duties. CFI alleged that Victaulic imported approximately 83 million pounds of fittings from overseas, 2003-2013, and a miniscule fraction of Victaulic’s fittings for sale in the U.S. bear any indication of their foreign origin, with an even smaller percentage bearing country of origin markings required by 19 U.S.C. 1304. The district court dismissed with prejudice, rejecting Victaulic’s jurisdictional argument that CFI’s complaint was based primarily on publicly available information, but finding that it failed to cross the threshold from possible to plausible. The court stated that it believed the FCA’s reverse false claims provision did not cover failure to pay marking duties, but declined to rule on those grounds because the complaint was based on legal conclusions unsupportable by the facts alleged. The Third Circuit vacated. Failure to pay marking duties may give rise to reverse false claims liability. CFI’s complaint contains enough reference to hard facts, combined with other allegations and an expert’s declaration, to allege a plausible course of conduct by Victaulic to which liability would attach. View "Customs Fraud Investigations LLC v. Victaulic Co." on Justia Law
Moore & Co., P A v. Majestic Blue Fisheries LLC
Under the South Pacific Tuna Treaty (SPTT), a limited number of licenses to fish the waters of the Pacific Island nations are available to vessels under the control and command of U.S. citizens. Moore, a law firm, filed suit under the False Claims Act against Korean nationals and LLCs, alleging that the LLCs acquired two SPTT licenses by fraudulently certifying to the U.S. government that they were controlled by U.S. citizens and that their fishing vessels were commanded by U.S. captains. Moore first learned of this alleged fraud through discovery in a wrongful death action that it litigated in federal court against two of the defendants. The district court dismissed, citing the FCA’s public disclosure bar and its “original source” exception, particularly the 2010 amendments to those provisions. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the alleged fraud was disclosed through any of the qualifying public disclosure sources, but that Moore has materially added to those public disclosures by contributing details of the alleged fraud that it independently uncovered through discovery in the wrongful death action in federal court. The court noted that the public disclosure bar is no longer jurisdictional. View "Moore & Co., P A v. Majestic Blue Fisheries LLC" on Justia Law