Court Finds That Qui Tam Relator Who Built Case From Patent Records Is Not an Original Source
A relator who scours public patent filings to “uncover” an alleged fraud against the government cannot avoid the False Claims Act’s public disclosure bar by claiming to be an original source, the Northern District of California held this week.
Massachusetts High Court Adopts Broad Reading of Commonwealth’s Public Disclosure Bar
In a May 2021 decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) affirmed the dismissal of a Massachusetts False Claims Act (“MFCA”) suit on the grounds that it was barred by the MFCA’s public disclosure bar. The suit, brought by relator Johan Rosenberg (“Relator”), alleged that Defendant banks conspired to engage in fraud in connection with resetting interest rates for certain municipal bonds known as “variable rate debt obligations” or VRDOs.
Tenth Circuit Offers New Guidance On “Original Source” Exception to the Public Disclosure Bar
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit weighed in on the “public disclosure bar” under the False Claims Act (“FCA”) that relators must pass for their qui tam suits to proceed. For the first time, the Court provided guidance on when a relator’s allegations can be deemed to “materially add” to public disclosures related to an alleged false claim, such that the original source exception to the public disclosure bar applies. United States ex rel. Reed v. KeyPoint Gov’t Solutions, No. 17-1379, (10th Cir. Apr. 30, 2019).
Seventh Circuit Holds That 2009 CMS Letter Triggered Public Disclosure Bar for Pre- and Post-Letter Conduct
On August 8, 2017, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an FCA suit alleging that a psychiatric hospital (“Hartgrove”) submitted claims to Medicaid despite maintaining a higher patient census than Hartgrove was licensed to maintain, providing some important clarification on the scope of the public disclosure bar. (more…)
Fifth Circuit Affirms Defense Verdict and Dismissals of Off-Label FCA Claims
Last week, the Fifth Circuit affirmed a defense verdict and the earlier dismissal of several False Claims Act claims related to the alleged off-label use and Medicare reimbursement of medical stents. The decision includes several significant rulings for FCA defendants, particularly in the Fifth Circuit. First, the court affirmed the dismissal of an anti-kickback claim because the relator had “[n]o particulars [to] show that the unidentified doctors who received the ill-defined benefits caused the hospital to use Abbott stents” and thus “never link[ed] the alleged carrots to the purchase and use of the stents at either of the hospitals.” Slip op. 6. The need to plead details showing such a “link” – or causation – is important. (more…)
Ninth Circuit Affirms Broad Reach of Public Disclosure Bar
A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirms the real challenges the public disclosure bar can pose to whistleblowers. In Amphastar Pharms. Inc. v. Aventis Pharma SA, No. 5:09-cv-00023-MJG-OP, 2017 WL 1947890 (C.D. Cal. May 11, 2017), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a California federal judge’s dismissal of a False Claims Act suit by Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Amphastar”) alleging the government overpaid for a blood thinner that was improperly patented, finding that the allegations were already public. (more…)
D.C. Circuit Affirms Expansive Reading Of Public Disclosure Bar
In a recent opinion by Judge Wilkins, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a qui tam action against Phillip Morris, United States ex rel Oliver v. Phillip Morris USA, Inc., No. 15-7049 (D.C. Cir. June 21, 2016), with two key holdings that will help FCA defendants in future cases. Specifically, the Court adopted an expansive reading of the FCA’s public disclosure bar and a stringent “original source” requirement.
Seventh Circuit Re-Affirms That Disclosure to Government Officials Constitutes Public Disclosure, But Suggests It May Be Open to Reconsidering That View
On February 26, 2016, the Seventh Circuit refused to revive a public interest group’s False Claims Act suit alleging that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) misreported transit data to gain additional federal grant allocations. The three-judge panel upheld the district court’s dismissal of the suit, which accused the CTA of over-reporting bus mileage to secure up to $55 million in inflated grant allocations. The district court found that the group’s accusations had already been publicized in a state performance audit report and federal agency letter, and the Seventh Circuit agreed that the relator, public interest group Cause of Action, failed to establish subject-matter jurisdiction under the FCA’s public-disclosure bar, which limits jurisdiction over qui tam actions based on allegations that already have been disclosed publicly through certain sources unless the relator is an “original source” of the information. See Cause of Action v. Chicago Transit Authority, No. 15-1143 (7th Cir. Feb. 29, 2016).
District Court Holds Industry-Wide Allegations in Prior Qui Tam Can Trigger Public Disclosure Bar as to Other Defendants
A district court recently took a broad view of the public disclosure bar in holding that where previously unsealed qui tam suits take a scattershot approach to broad industry allegations of misconduct, even companies not named in those suits can successfully invoke the public disclosure bar during later litigation.
In United States ex rel. Ambrosecchia v. Paddock Labs., LLC, No. 12-cv-2164 (E.D. Mo. Sept. 23, 2015), the relator alleged that defendants violated the FCA by making fraudulent misrepresentations to CMS about FDA approval dates for drugs and providing false Drug Efficacy Study Implementation (“DESI”) codes indicting defendants’ products were safe and effective, which the federal healthcare programs then relied upon to pay for drugs ineligible for reimbursement. The defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the claims were substantially the same as those in a suit filed prior to the relator’s, and therefore the public disclosure bar applied. The relator attacked the application of the public disclosure bar both procedurally and substantively.
Court Agrees with DOJ, Rejects Relator’s Share For Whistleblower Who Is Not An Original Source
A federal district court in California has denied a qui tam relator’s attempt to share in the proceeds of a $323 million FCA settlement, holding that he was not the “original source” of the information that led to the settlement because he learned most of it secondhand from a former co-worker.