Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
United States v. Jamison
Johnson was the councilman in Cleveland’s Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood for 41 years. Jamison was his executive assistant. For years, Johnson used his position to fraudulently claim federal reimbursements for payments he never made. He also secured employment for his children in federally funded programs, although they were not legally eligible to work in such positions. Johnson deposited their earnings into his own account. In addition, Johnson fraudulently claimed a series of tax deductions. He encouraged and assisted his son Elijah in submitting falsified records for Elijah’s grand-jury testimony. Jamison assisted Johnson in these crimes. Johnson and Jamison were convicted on 15 charges, including federal program theft under 18 U.S.C. 371, 666(a)(1)(A) and (2); tax fraud, 26 U.S.C. 7206(2); and obstruction of justice, 18 U.S.C. 1512(b) and 1519. Johnson was sentenced to 72 months in prison. Jamison was sentenced to 60 months.The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the district court’s loss calculations and to sentencing enhancements for being an organizer or leader of a criminal activity involving five or more participants, for using a minor, and for obstructing justice. The district court properly admitted “other acts” evidence of prior misuse of campaign funds. Any other errors in evidentiary rulings were harmless. View "United States v. Jamison" on Justia Law
SHH Holdings, LLC v. Allied World Specialty Ins. Co.
A False Claims Act qui tam action was filed under seal against SHH and its nursing facilities, alleging that SHH provided unreasonable and unnecessary services to claim the highest possible Medicare reimbursement. Three co-relators also alleged that SHH retaliated against them for internally reporting fraudulent billing practices. SHH received a Department of Justice notification that it was the subject of a fraudulent claims investigation, requesting information about recent terminations of SHH employees, including the relators. It did not explicitly refer to the retaliation allegations.Two years later, SHH obtained liability coverage. Allied's claims-made policy applies only to claims first made during the policy period. SHH's application checked "none" when asked to “provide full details of all inquiries, investigations, administrative charges, claims, and lawsuits filed” within the last three years. SHH checked “no” to whether “[SHH], any Subsidiary, any Executive or other entity proposed for coverage kn[ew] of any act, error or omission which could give rise to a claim, suit or action.” An application exclusion, incorporated into the policy, stated that if such information existed, any inquiry, investigation, administrative charge, claim, or lawsuit arising therefrom or arising from such violation, knowledge, information, or involvement is excluded from coverage.The qui tam action was unsealed. SHH notified Allied and sought coverage for defense costs. Allied denied coverage. SHH sued. SHH later settled the relators' retaliation claim ($2.2 million) and finalized a $10 million settlement for the claims-submissions violations. The district court granted SHH partial summary judgment, awarding $2,336,786.35. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The plain language of SHH’s policy excluded coverage. View "SHH Holdings, LLC v. Allied World Specialty Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Lemaster v. Lawrence County, Kentucky
The Lemasters run a Lawrence County, Kentucky towing business, which was on the county’s “rotation list” of companies to call when it needed to order a tow. Both as fire chief and in his towing business, Lemaster sparred with Carter, Lawrence County’s “judge-executive,” the elected head of its executive branch. Lemaster criticized Carter on Facebook. Five days later, the 911 Center sent an email to dispatchers; its subject identified Lemaster Towing and the Cherryville Fire Department. Its body stated in all caps: “Per Judge Carter do not tone them out on any fire calls[;] use nearest department[;] . . . Lemaster Towing is no longer on the rotation list[.]”The Lemasters sued Carter and Lawrence County under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law, alleging that Carter violated the First Amendment by removing Lemaster Towing from the rotation list in retaliation for Lemaster’s criticisms. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed as to the Monell claims against the county; Lemaster did not tie the actions to any county policy. The court reversed as to Carter. Carter conceded that his communications with dispatch employees could constitute an adverse action. The record would allow a rational jury to find that Lemaster’s Facebook post motivated Carter’s decision to remove Lemaster Towing from the rotation list. View "Lemaster v. Lawrence County, Kentucky" on Justia Law
Martin v. Hathaway
The False Claims Act imposes civil liability for “knowingly present[ing], or caus[ing] to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim [to the government] for payment or approval,” 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A). Individuals with knowledge of false claims may bring private qui tam lawsuits, on behalf of the government. The Act covers claims resulting from a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b(g), which prohibits medical providers from making referrals “in return for” “remuneration.”Oaklawn Hospital is in Marshall, Michigan, which had two ophthalmologists. Oaklawn extended one of those doctors (Martin) a tentative offer to work at the hospital after hearing that the other doctor (Hathaway) planned to move his surgeries elsewhere. Hathaway told the hospital’s CEO that he wanted to continue working with Oaklawn and that Oaklawn hiring Martin would be the “death knell” of his practice. Oaklawn’s Board ultimately did not hire Martin.Martin filed a qui tam action, alleging an illegal fraudulent scheme under the Anti-Kickback Statute and that claims for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement resulting from the kickbacks violated the False Claims Act. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit, which essentially argued that Oaklawn’s rejection of Martin’s employment in return for Hathaway’s commitment to continue sending surgery referrals violated the Anti-Kickback Statute. The Martins have not plausibly alleged causation; the alleged scheme did not change anything. When Oaklawn decided not to establish an internal ophthalmology line, it simply left things where they were. View "Martin v. Hathaway" on Justia Law
Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Biden
The 1949 Federal Property and Administrative Services Act concerns the purchase of goods and services on behalf of the federal government, 40 U.S.C. 101. In November 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, citing the Act, issued a “Guidance” mandating that employees of federal contractors in covered contracts with the federal government become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee and Ohio sheriffs’ offices challenged the mandate. The district court enjoined its enforcement in the three states and denied the government’s request to stay the injunction pending appeal.The Sixth Circuit denied relief in January 2022 and, a year later, affirmed. The Property Act does not authorize the President to issue directives that simply “improve the efficiency of contractors and subcontractors.” The plaintiffs are likely to succeed in showing that the President exceeded his authority in issuing the mandate. The plaintiffs are likely to lose valuable government contracts and incur unrecoverable compliance costs if the mandate is not enjoined. The public interest “lies in a correct application” of the law. Because an injunction limited to the parties can adequately protect the plaintiffs’ interests while the case is pending, the district court abused its discretion in extending the preliminary injunction’s protection to non-party contractors in the plaintiff states. View "Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Biden" on Justia Law
New Lansing Gardens Housing Limited Partnership v. Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees the Section 8 low-income housing assistance program, 42 U.S.C. 1437f. New Lansing renewed its Section 8 contract with Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority in 2014 for a 20-year term. In 2019, at the contractual time for its fifth-year rent adjustment, New Lansing submitted a rent comparability study (RCS) to assist CM Authority in determining the new contract rents. Following the 2017 HUD Section 8 Guidebook, CM Authority forwarded New Lansing’s RCS to HUD, which obtained an independent RCS. Based on the independent RCS undertaken pursuant to HUD’s Guidebook requirements, the Housing Authority lowered New Lansing’s contract rents amount.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of New Lansing’s suit for breach of contract. The Renewal Contract requires only that the Housing Authority “make any adjustments in the monthly contract rents, as reasonably determined by the contract administrator in accordance with HUD requirements, necessary to set the contract rents for all unit sizes at comparable market rents.” HUD has authority to prescribe how to determine comparable market rents, the Renewal Contract adopted those requirements, and thus the Housing Authority was required to follow those HUD methods. The Housing Authority did not act unreasonably by following the requirements in the 2017 HUD guidance. View "New Lansing Gardens Housing Limited Partnership v. Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority" on Justia Law
Greg Adkisson v. Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc
TVA, wholly owned by the U.S. government, 16 U.S.C. 831, operates Tennessee's Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant. A containment dike that retained coal-ash sludge failed in 2008, causing 5.4 million cubic yards of coal-ash sludge to spill to adjacent property. TVA and the EPA responded under the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan. TVA, as the lead agency, engaged Jacobs as its “prime contractor providing project planning, management, and oversight,” including evaluating potential hazards to human health and safety. Jacobs submitted a Safety and Health Plan. More than 60 of Jacobs’s former employees sued, claiming that they were exposed to coal ash and particulate “fly ash” during this cleanup. The suits were consolidated.The district court denied Jacobs’s motions seeking derivative discretionary-function immunity, reasoning that Jacobs would be entitled to immunity only if it adhered to its contract and there were genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Jacobs acted within the scope of its authority. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs but did not designate any particular theory, as listed in the jury instructions, for which Jacobs could be held liable, broadly finding that Jacobs “failed to adhere to the terms of its contract," or the Plan. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Jacobs is immune from suit only if TVA is immune; TVA would not have been immune from suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs’ claims raise either “inconsistency” or “grave-interference” concerns. View "Greg Adkisson v. Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc" on Justia Law
USN4U, LLC v. Wolf Creek Federal Services, Inc.
USN4U brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, alleging that Wolf Creek and its employees submitted falsely inflated project estimates to NASA for facilities maintenance, resulting in the negotiation of fraudulently induced, exorbitant contract prices. USN4U alleged that “[t]he Government paid Wolf Creek and its union employees for labor not actually performed,” described specific projects, and alleged that when Wolf Creek performed NASA projects, workgroup leads instructed “participating union employee[s]” to falsely report their labor hours to “justify the inflated [labor] estimate.” USN4U identified several Wolf Creek employees who were allegedly active members of the fraudulent schemeCiting NASA’s subsequent decision to pay the invoices and continue to contract with Wolf Creek, and the government’s decision not to intervene in USN4U’s claim, the district court dismissed the suit.The Sixth Circuit reversed. USN4U adequately alleged fraud. NASA asked Wolf Creek for estimates and always awarded the contracts for the quoted amount, which could indicate that NASA trusted and relied upon the purported accuracy of Wolf Creek’s estimates. NASA plausibly would not have agreed to pay Wolf Creek the quoted amount if NASA knew that it was being grossly overcharged. View "USN4U, LLC v. Wolf Creek Federal Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Dorsa v. Miraca Life Sciences, Inc.
Dorsa joined Miraca, which offers pathology services for healthcare providers. His employment agreement contained a binding arbitration clause. Dorsa claims that, during his employment, he observed Miraca giving monetary donations and free services to healthcare providers to induce pathology referrals, in violation of the AntiKickback Statute, the Stark Law, and the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1). Dorsa lodged internal complaints. Dorsa claims that Miraca fabricated a sexual harassment complaint against him. Dorsa filed a qui tam action against Miraca in September 2013. Days later, Miraca fired Dorsa, citing workplace harassment. Dorsa added an FCA retaliation claim.The government investigated the FCA claims and, in 2018, intervened for purposes of settlement, under which Miraca agreed to pay $63.5 million to resolve FCA claims. Miraca moved to dismiss the remaining retaliation claim, citing the arbitration clause, Dorsa argued that the clause did not apply because his claim was independent from the employment agreement. Miraca then asserted that the court did not have the authority to decide a threshold question of arbitrability. The district court ruled in favor of Dorsa. Miraca later moved to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of that motion. Miraca forfeited and waived its arguments about the district court’s authority to decide threshold questions of arbitrability and its ruling on the merits. Filing the motion to dismiss was inconsistent with Miraca’s later attempts to rely on the arbitration agreement. View "Dorsa v. Miraca Life Sciences, Inc." on Justia Law
United States v. Wellman
Lexington solicited bids for relocating its city offices, including one from CRM, a local real estate development firm. Wellman was an executive at CRM. While the committee deliberated on the CRM proposal, two City Council members began receiving campaign contributions from CRM employees. These actions prompted an investigation under 18 U.S.C. 666, which prohibits “federal funds bribery.” Agents suspected a straw contribution scheme arranged by Wellman and funded by CRM. Wellman falsified documents and cajoled his straw contributors to lie. Prosecutors opened a separate grand jury inquiry into potential obstruction charges against Wellman.Wellman was convicted on 11 federal charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting numerous associates to make false statements to the FBI, and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison with a $10,000 fine. The district court applied a two-level obstruction of justice enhancement under U.S.S.G. 3C1.1 but ultimately varied downward based on Wellman’s character and service to the community. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and Wellman’s argument that, at most, he obstructed an investigation into violations of Kentucky campaign finance laws, not federal bribery. A reasonable jury could conclude that Wellman corruptly obstructed, influenced, or impeded a federal grand jury proceeding. View "United States v. Wellman" on Justia Law