Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government Contracts

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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

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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

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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

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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

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In 2000 the Port Authority signed a 30-year lease for the largest marine terminal at Port Elizabeth (445 acres including structures and berthing) with Maher, which handles cargo. The Lease requires “Basic Rental,” (in 2012, $50,413 per acre, totaling $22,433,612) plus “Container Throughput Rental,” based on the type and volume of cargo at Maher’s terminal. For eight years, Maher was exempted from Throughput Rental. Since 2008 the first 356,000 containers are exempted; for containers 356,001 to 980,000, Maher paid $19.00 per container in 2012; and for each additional container, Maher paid $14.25. Maher must handle a minimum amount of cargo to maintain the Lease and pay an annual guaranteed minimum Throughput Rental. Maher paid $12.5 million in Throughput Rental in 2010, and expected the 2012 amount to be $14 million. Maher claims the Port Authority profits from the Lease and uses the revenue to fund harbor improvements and projects unrelated to services provided to Maher or vessels. In 2012 Maher sued, alleging violations of the Constitution’s Tonnage Clause; the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act, 33 U.S.C. 5(b); and the Water Resources Development Act, 33 U.S.C. 2236. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal, agreeing that Maher lacked standing to bring its Tonnage Clause and RHA claims because it was not a protected vessel and did not adequately plead that fees imposed on vessels were not for services rendered. Maher’s WRDA claim failed because Maher had not shown that the Authority imposed fees on vessels or cargo and because the WRDA did not prohibit use of Lease revenue to finance harbor improvements. View "Maher Terminals LLC v. Port Auth. of NY" on Justia Law

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Nagle and Fink were co-owners and executives of concrete manufacturing and construction businesses. The businesses entered into a relationship with a company owned by a person of Filipino descent. His company would bid for subcontracts on Pennsylvania transportation projects as a disadvantaged business enterprise. Federal regulations require states that receive federal transportation funds to set annual goals for participation in transportation construction projects by disadvantaged business enterprises, 49 C.F.R. 26.21. If his company won the bid for the subcontract, Nagle and Fink’s businesses would perform all of the work. Fink pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. A jury found Nagle guilty of multiple charges relating to the scheme. The Third Circuit affirmed Nagle’s conviction, upholding the admission of electronic evidence discovered during searches of the businesses’ offices, but vacated both sentences, based on loss calculation errors. View "United States v. Nagle" on Justia Law

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Hospitals that are disadvantaged by their geographic location may reclassify to a different wage index area for certain Medicare reimbursement purposes by applying for redesignation to the Medicare Geographic Classification Review Board. Section 401 of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Balanced Budget Refinement Act of 1999, enacted 10 years after the Board was established, creates a separate mechanism by which qualifying hospitals located in urban areas “shall [be] treat[ed] . . . [as] rural” for the same reimbursement purposes. To avoid possible strategic maneuvering by hospitals, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation providing that hospitals with Section 401 status cannot receive additional reclassification by the Board on the basis of that status, 42 C.F.R. 412.230(a)(5)(iii) (Reclassification Rule). Geisinger, a hospital located in an urban area, received rural designation under Section 401 but was unable to obtain further reclassification by the Board pursuant to the Reclassification Rule. Geisinger sued. The district court upheld the regulation. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that Section 401 is unambiguous: HHS shall treat Section 401 hospitals as rural for Board reclassification purposes, 42 U.S.C. 1395ww(d)(8)(E)(i) View "Geisinger Cmty. Med. Ctr. v. Sec'y United States Dep't of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law

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Dougherty, the Business Officer for Operations for the Philadelphia School District, was accountable for the Office of Capital Programs (OCP), which developed projects for School Reform Commission (SRC) approval. Dougherty reported to Nunery, who reported to Superintendent Ackerman. Ackerman directed OCP to install security cameras in “persistently dangerous” schools. Due to a short time frame, OCP could not use its bidding process and was required to select a pre-qualified contractor. Dougherty identified SDT as such a contractor, prepared a proposal, and submitted a resolution to Nunery. Under District policy, the Superintendent must approve the resolution before it is presented to the SRC. Dougherty did not receive a response from Nunery or Ackerman, nor was the resolution presented to the SRC. Ackerman allegedly rejected the SDT proposal for lack of minority participation, and directed that IBS, a minority-owned firm, be awarded the contract. IBS was not pre-qualified. SRC ratified the plan. Conflicts arose. Dougherty met with reporters, resulting in articles accusing Ackerman of violating state guidelines, and contacted the FBI, state representatives, and the U.S. Department of Education. Ackerman placed Dougherty on leave pending an investigation, which concluded that there was no unlawful motive in the contract award, but that Dougherty violated the Code of Ethics confidentiality section. SRC terminated Dougherty. In his suit, alleging First Amendment retaliation and violations of the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law, the district court denied motions for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Dougherty v. Philadelphia Sch.Dist." on Justia Law

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Schumann, as a qui tam relator under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729, and corresponding state laws, alleged that the drug company defendants improperly induced Medco Health, his employer, to offer certain of defendants’ drugs in its mail-order pharmacies and in health plans it managed; did not include those inducements when calculating the best price for their drugs, and thus submitted inaccurate best price reports to the government; overcharged the government based on those inaccurate best prices; and underpaid rebates owed based on those inaccurate best prices. The district court dismissed, holding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Schumann’s claims because he did not have the requisite direct and independent knowledge to satisfy the original source exception to the FCA’s public disclosure bar. The Third Circuit affirmed. Schumann’s knowledge was not direct because it came from reviewing documents and discussing them with colleagues who participated in the underlying events. View "Schumann v. Astrazeneca Pharm., L.P." on Justia Law

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Foglia, an RN, was hired by Renal, a dialysis care services company, in 2007, and was terminated in 2008. Foglia filed a qui tam complaint against Renal under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729, in 2009. The United States chose not to intervene. In a second amended complaint, Foglia claimed that Renal falsely certified that it was in compliance with state regulations regarding quality of care, falsely submitted claims for reimbursement for the drug Zemplar, and re-used single-use Zemplar vials. The court dismissed, finding that Foglia had failed to state his claim with the heightened level of particularity required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) for fraud claims. The court noted Foglia’s failure to provide a “representative sample” or to “identify representative examples of specific false claims” and that even if Foglia’s claim had met the requirement of Rule 9(b), Foglia “provided no authority under an express or implied false certification theory that the claims submitted … violated a rule or statute establishing compliance as a condition of payment.” Foglia appealed dismissal of his claim of over-billing on Zemplar. The Third Circuit reversed, noting that it was a close case, the need to assume that Foglia was correct in alleging that Renal did not follow proper procedures if it was to harvest “extra” Zemplar from used vials, and that only Renal has access to the documents that could prove the claim.View "Foglia v. Renal Ventures Mgmt., LLC" on Justia Law