The Fourth Circuit ruled recently in U.S. ex rel. Bunk v. Government Logistics N.V., No. 15-1088, 2016 WL 6695787 (4th Cir. Nov. 15, 2016), that the Relators had presented sufficient evidence to proceed to trial against Defendant Government Logistics (GovLog) based on the traditional fraudulent transaction theory of successor liability. The Court declined, however, to expand the scope of successor liability under the FCA to include the substantial continuation theory, which, as discussed here, would have allowed Relators to establish liability by showing merely that GovLog retained its predecessor’s employees, managers, assets, and operations, among other indicia of corporate continuity. See United States v. Carolina Transformer, 978 F.2d 832, 840 (4th Cir. 1992).
On September 30, 2016, the Sixth Circuit remanded a False Claims Act (“FCA”) lawsuit against Brookdale Senior Living Solutions (the “defendant” or “Brookdale”), which alleges, among other things, that physician signatures on home care certifications and care plans were late and that Brookdale paid physicians to provide certifications for patients that did not require home care. Specifically, the Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s dismissal of United States ex rel. Prather v. Brookdale Senior Living Cmtys., Inc., Case No. 15-6377, holding that the relator “sufficiently plead the submission of particular claims to the government because she provided a detailed description of the alleged fraudulent scheme, and included her own personal knowledge of the review of Medicare claims for submission.”
A District of Nevada magistrate judge has ruled that an FCA defendant’s assertion that it complied with “all applicable legal requirements” constitutes a “good faith” defense that waives the attorney-client privilege. The opinion highlights the thin line between a mere denial of scienter (which should not waive the privilege) and an affirmative good faith defense (which may), and illustrates the difficult choices FCA defendants face when deciding how best to respond to an allegation that they knowingly attempted to commit fraud.
In a victory for government contractors, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that vendors and their suppliers cannot knowingly submit false claims under the False Claims Act where the knowing falsity is premised on lack of compliance with government regulations that are subject to differing, good-faith interpretations. The case, U.S. ex rel. Smith v. Boeing, No. 14-3247, 2016 WL3244862 (10th Cir. 2016), involved an appeal by relators, three former Boeing employees, of summary judgment for Boeing and Ducommun, Inc.
On October 6, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia allowed relator Stephen Shea to refile his case against Verizon in order to avoid the False Claims Act’s first-to-file bar. See U.S. ex rel. Shea v. Verizon Business Network Services et al., No. 09-1050-GK (D.D.C. Oct. 6, 2015). By allowing Shea to refile, the District Court took an important stance on the FCA’s public disclosure bar that may make it more difficult for future defendants to advance the bar.