Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Huntington Ingalls v. DOWCP
Plaintiff worked at Huntington Ingalls Incorporated as a sheet-metal mechanic. After leaving the company, Plaintiff complained of hearing loss. Plaintiff selected and met with an audiologist. An administrative law judge denied Plaintiff’s Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board. The Board reversed its initial decision on whether Plaintiff could choose his own audiologist. The Company timely petitioned for review. The question is whether audiologists are “physicians” under Section 907(b) of LHWCA. The Fifth Circuit denied the Company’s petition for review. The court reasoned that based on the education they receive and the role that they play in identifying and treating hearing disorders, audiologists can fairly be described as “skilled in the art of healing.” However, audiologists are not themselves medical doctors. Their work complements that of a medical doctor. But, the court wrote, Optometrists, despite lacking a medical degree, are able to administer and interpret vision tests. And based on the results of those tests, optometrists can prescribe the appropriate corrective lenses that someone with impaired vision can use to bolster his or her ability to see. Audiologists are similarly able to administer hearing tests, evaluate the resulting audiograms, and then use that information to fit a patient with hearing aids that are appropriately calibrated to the individual’s level of auditory impairment. Because the plain meaning of the regulation includes audiologists, and because that regulation is entitled to Chevron deference, audiologists are included in Section 907(b) of the LHWCA’s use of the word “physician.” View "Huntington Ingalls v. DOWCP" on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Schweizer v. Canon, Inc.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's qui tam claims under the False Claims Act (FCA), alleging that Canon overcharged the United States for office equipment and provided non-compliant products. The court concluded that plaintiff's claims against Canon were barred by the FCA's public-disclosure provision. The court agreed with both the magistrate and district judges that Canon satisfied its burden of showing that plaintiff's allegations against Canon are "based upon" the allegations and transactions asserted in plaintiff's prior FCA suit, which the government settled years earlier. View "United States ex rel. Schweizer v. Canon, Inc." on Justia Law
Taylor Energy Company, LLC v. Couvillion Group, LLC
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Couvillion in a declaratory judgment action brought by Taylor, seeking tort damages and equitable relief for Couvillion's trespass and unauthorized activities at the MC20 Site. The court concluded that Couvillion was entitled to immunity under Yearsley v. W.A. Ross Construction Company, 309 U.S. 18 (1940), where there was no genuine fact dispute as to whether Couvillion's actions were authorized and directed by the government, and where Couvillion's authority to carry out its actions was validly conferred by Congress. View "Taylor Energy Company, LLC v. Couvillion Group, LLC" on Justia Law
Texas Workforce Commission v. United States Department of Education
The Commission alleged that the Army violated the Randolph-Sheppard Act by failing to give priority to blind vendors in the bidding process for a vending facility services contract at an Army base cafeteria. After the arbitration panel found in favor of the Army, the Commission appealed the panel's decision.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Commission. The court held that the statutory language is ambiguous; applied the presumption against ineffectiveness; supported a broader interpretation of "operate" in the context in which it is used within the Act; and held that the district court did not err in holding that the Act may apply to Dining Facility Attendant (DFA) contracts generally. In this case, the DFA contract at issue is subject to the Act and the Army violated the Act by not giving the Commission priority in the bidding process. View "Texas Workforce Commission v. United States Department of Education" on Justia Law
Latiolais v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc.
Upon reconsideration of the scope of the revised Federal Officer Removal Statute, the en banc court held that Avondale was entitled to remove this negligence case filed by a former Navy machinist because of his exposure to asbestos while the Navy's ship was being repaired at the Avondale shipyard under a federal contract.The en banc court aligned with its sister circuits and relied on the plain language of the Removal Clarification Act of 2011, holding that, to remove under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a), a defendant must show (1) it has asserted a colorable federal defense, (2) it is a "person" within the meaning of the statute, (3) that has acted pursuant to a federal officer's directions, and (4) the charged conduct is connected or associated with an act pursuant to a federal officer's directions. In this case, the pleadings satisfied the "connection" condition of removal. Accordingly, the en banc court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Latiolais v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc." on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Drummond v. BestCare Laboratory Services, LLC
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the United States in a False Claims Act (FCA) suit alleging that BestCare obtained millions of dollars in reimbursements from Medicare for miles that its technicians never traveled. The court held that the district court did not err in granting the Government's motions for summary judgment where BestCare violated the Medicare statute's limitations on travel reimbursements. Furthermore, the court rejected BestCare's alternative argument that their good-faith reliance on the CMS Manual created a genuine dispute about whether they had the requisite mental state to violate the FCA. Because the court affirmed the $30.6 million award under the FCA, defendant's challenge to the $10.6 million award was moot. Finally, the district court did not err in holding Defendant Maghareh jointly and severally liable, and defendants' claim that the district court should be recused under 28 U.S.C. 455 lacked merit. View "United States ex rel. Drummond v. BestCare Laboratory Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Lefoldt v. Rentfro
Mississippi requires that a public board speak and act only through its minutes, and Mississippi courts will not give legal effect to a contract with a public board unless the board's approval of the contract is reflected in its minutes. In this case, the Medical Center filed suit against Horne, alleging accounting malpractice. Horne claimed that the action must fail because there can be no accounting malpractice claim without proof of a professional relationship, and there was no record evidence on the minutes that the Medical Center ever entered into a professional relationship with Horne.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Horne, holding that, by virtue of the minutes rule, the Medical Center never formed a contract with Horne to perform the four audits conducted from 2010 to 2013. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that the Medical Center failed to offer any competent evidence that it was in privity with Horne. View "Lefoldt v. Rentfro" on Justia Law
United States v. Hodge
After a jury found that Allied Corporation was liable under the False Claims Act (FCA) for misrepresentations about its compliance with the Federal Housing Act underwriting guidelines, the jury awarded over $85.6 million in damages and found Defendant Hodge and Allied Capital liable under the FCA for misrepresentation. The jury awarded more damages and also found all three defendants were liable under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA).The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendants. The court rejected defendants' claims of error regarding the admission of expert testimony, and held that the district court did not err by dismissing a juror shortly before the remaining jurors reached their verdict based mainly on the juror's lack of candor and his threatening behavior. View "United States v. Hodge" on Justia Law
United States ex rel Lemon v. Nurses To Go, Inc.
Qui tam relators appealed the district court's dismissal of their False Claims Act (FCA) suit against several hospice organizations owned and operated by Walter Crowder, the president and director of Nurses to Go.The Fifth Circuit considered the materiality factors in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, and held that relators' alleged violations were material. In this case, defendants' alleged fraudulent certifications of compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements violated conditions of payment under 42 U.S.C. 1395(a)(7), and relators' allegations were sufficient to state a claim that the Government would deny payment if it knew of defendants' false certifications. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings to allow the district court to conduct a Rule 9(b) particularity analysis consistent with United States ex rel. Grubbs v. Kanneganti. View "United States ex rel Lemon v. Nurses To Go, Inc." on Justia Law
Solomon v. Lockheed Martin Corp.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that it lacked jurisdiction over relator's claims based on the public disclosure bar of the False Claims Act (FCA). Relator filed suit against his employer Northrop Grumman and against Lockheed Martin for making false claims against the government. The court held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear relator's claims because he failed to demonstrate that he was the original source of the Systems Design and Development contract. In this case, the record made clear that relator derived his knowledge about the connection between cost performance and award fees from portions of the contract that were publicly disclosed before he filed his complaint. View "Solomon v. Lockheed Martin Corp." on Justia Law