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

Articles Posted in Government Contracts
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The Department of Transportation (DOT) provides funds for state transportation projects. States that receive federal transportation funds must set participation goals for disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs)--for-profit small businesses “at least 51 percent owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged” and “[w]hose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more of the socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who own it.” States certify businesses as DBEs.The defendants were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349, and wire fraud, section 1343, arising out of DOT-financed contracts for work in Philadelphia that included DBE requirements. The Defendants' bids committed to working on the projects with Markias, a company that had prequalified as a DBE. During the performance of their contracts, the Defendants submitted false documentation regarding Markias’ role; PennDOT awarded the Defendants DBE credits and paid them based on their asserted compliance with the DBE requirements. Markias did not do any work on the projects or supply any of the materials. The Defendants arranged for the actual suppliers to send their invoices to Markias, which then issued its own invoices, adding a 2.25% fee.The Third Circuit affirmed the convictions but vacated the forfeiture order and loss calculation. The court acknowledged the complex nature of this fraud in this and commended the attempt to determine the amount of loss for sentencing purposes, and the amount to be forfeited. View "United States v. Kousisis" on Justia Law

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In 2014, National Park Service (NPS) entered a contract with Perini to perform work on Ellis Island and hired Jacobs to provide contract management services on that contract. Jacobs assigned Weber to the project. Weber observed what he believed to be discrepancies between Perini’s work and its billing practices and disclosed those discrepancies to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which concluded that there was no misconduct. In 2015, the NPS informed Jacobs that it would not extend its contract, purportedly because there was not enough work. Weber told OIG that he believed NPS’s decision was due to his reports and that he feared Jacobs would not retain him. Jacobs ultimately discharged Weber, who filed an OIG complaint in December 2015. In April 2016, Weber agreed to, an extension of OIG’s 180-day statutory deadline to complete its investigation. In February 2017, beyond the 360-day extended deadline, OIG completed and transmitted its report, with redacted copies to Weber and Jacobs. More than three years later, Jacobs asserted that it had never received the report.Jacobs subsequently declined to respond, asserting that the report was issued after the statutory deadline, 41 U.S.C. 4712, and that OIG lacked jurisdiction. The final determination and order were issued in December 2021, well beyond the 30-day deadline, and concluded that Jacobs had engaged in a prohibited reprisal against Weber. The Third Circuit denied an appeal, holding that the deadlines are not jurisdictional. View "Jacobs Project Management Co v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Drug makers participating in Medicare or Medicaid must offer their drugs at a discount to certain “covered entities,” which typically provide healthcare to low-income and rural individuals, 42 U.S.C. 256b, 1396r-8(a)(1), (5) (Section 340B). Initially, few covered entities had in-house pharmacies. A 1996 HHS guidance stated that covered entities could use one outside contract pharmacy each; a 2010 HHS guidance stated that covered entities could use an unlimited number of contract pharmacies. Drug makers thought that contract pharmacies were driving up duplicate discounting and diversion and adopted policies to limit any covered entity’s use of multiple contract pharmacies. A 2020 HHS Advisory Opinion declared that Section 340B required drug makers to deliver discounted drugs to an unlimited number of contract pharmacies.In 2010, Congress told HHS to establish a process for drug makers and covered entities to resolve Section 340B–related disputes. In 2016, HHS issued a notice of proposed rulemaking and accepted comments on the proposed ADR Rule. HHS subsequently listed the proposed rule as withdrawn. In 2020, HHS stated that it had just “paus[ed] action on the proposed rule,” responded to the four-year-old comments. and issued a final ADR Rule.Drug companies sued. The Third Circuit held that Section 340B does not require drug makers to deliver discounted drugs to an unlimited number of contract pharmacies. HHS did not violate the APA by purporting to withdraw the proposed ADR Rule before later finalizing it. View "Sanofi Aventis US LLC v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Ascolese, a compliance officer, brought a False Claims Act (FCA) retaliation claim against his former employer, MBP, in connection with a qui tam action involving a federally-funded public housing construction project for the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA). In 2009–2010, Congress amended the FCA, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A), to expand the scope of protected conduct shielded from retaliation and the type of notice an employer must have of the protected conduct. The new standard is whether Ascolese showed he engaged in protected conduct in furtherance of an FCA action or other efforts to stop or more violations of the FCA and that he was discriminated against because of his protected conduct. The court believed that the pre-amendment standard was required by the Third Circuit, and concluded that Ascolese failed to show MBP was on notice that he was attempting to stop MBP from violating the FCA and not merely doing his job.The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. The right question is whether Ascolese pled facts that plausibly showed MBP was on notice he tried to stop MBP’s alleged FCA violation. Ascolese sufficiently pled that he engaged in protected conduct when he went outside of his chain of command to report his concerns of fraudulent work to the PHA. View "Ascolese v. Shoemaker Construction Co" on Justia Law

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Guaranteed was a “reverse distributor,” paid by healthcare providers to return unused or expired pharmaceutical drugs to the drug manufacturers, for refunds for the healthcare-provider clients. Refunds were wired directly to Guaranteed’s general operating account; the company then issued refund checks to the relevant clients, less a service fee. In 2001, the Department of Defense contracted with Guaranteed. The government began investigating Guaranteed after the District of Columbia noticed that it did not receive the full refund on a return of some of its pharmaceuticals. The investigation uncovered a series of schemes that Guaranteed used to defraud its clients.Guaranteed, its CEO, and its CFO, were convicted of multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and theft of government property. In addition to prison sentences, the court imposed more than $100 million in restitution and forfeitures. The Third Circuit reversed the money laundering convictions and remanded for resentencing. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, there is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged complex financial transactions—after the initial receipt of “commingled” fraudulent and lawfully obtained funds—were designed for "concealment money laundering." The court otherwise affirmed, rejecting challenges to a search warrant, the sufficiency of the evidence, the jury instructions, and the court’s refusal to permit proposed expert testimony. View "United States v. Fallon" on Justia Law

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Dr. Polansky was an official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) before consulting for EHR, a “physician advisor” company that provides review and billing certification services to hospitals and physicians that bill Medicare. Polansky became concerned that EHR was systematically enabling its client hospitals to over-admit patients by certifying inpatient services that should have been provided on an outpatient basis.In 2012, Polansky filed suit under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729, alleging EHR was causing hospitals to bill the government for inpatient stays that were not “reasonable and necessary” for diagnosis or treatment as required by the Medicare program, 42 U.S.C. 1395y(a)(1)(A). His complaint remained under seal for two years while the government conducted its own investigation and ultimately determined it would not participate in the case.In 2019, the government notified the parties that it intended to dismiss the entire action under 31 U.S.C. 3730(c): “[t]he Government may dismiss the action notwithstanding the objections of the [relator]” so long as the relator receives notice and an opportunity to be heard on the Government’s motion. The district court eventually granted the motion. The Third Circuit affirmed. The government is required to intervene before moving to dismiss and its motion must meet the standard of FRCP 41(a). The district court acted within its discretion in granting the government’s motion. View "Polansky v. Executive Health Resources Inc" on Justia Law

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Before filing for bankruptcy, the Debtors provided general contracting services for large construction projects, including many projects for departments of the federal government. To enter into contracts with the United States, contractors are generally required to post both a performance bond and a payment bond signed by the contractor and a qualified surety (such as ICSP), 40 U.S.C. 3131. When the Debtors defaulted on the contract at issue, ICSP stepped in to make sure that the work was completed. ICSP claims that it is subrogated to the United States’ rights to set off a tax refund (owed to one or more of the Debtors) against the losses that ICSP covered. However, to settle various claims in the Debtors’ Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, the United States and the Trustee agreed that the United States would waive its setoff rights.The Bankruptcy Court, district court, and Third Circuit held that ICSP is not entitled to the tax refund. The United States had not yet been “paid in full,” within the meaning of 11 U.S.C. 509(c), when the Bankruptcy Court approved the settlement, so ICSP’s subrogation rights were subordinate to the remaining and superior claims of the United States at the time of the settlement. The United States was entitled to waive its setoff rights in order to settle its remaining and superior claims; the waiver of its setoff rights extinguished ICSP’s ability to be subrogated to those rights. View "Insurance Co of the State of Pennsylania v. Giuliano" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Farfield contracted with SEPTA for improvements on Philadelphia-area railroad tracks. The federal government partially funded the project. Work concluded in 2007. As required by federal regulation, Department of Labor (DOL) prevailing wage determinations were incorporated into the contract. Farfield was required to submit to SEPTA for transmission to the Federal Transit Administration a copy of Farfield’s certified payroll, setting out all the information required under the Davis-Bacon Act, 40 U.S.C. 3142(a), with a “Statement of Compliance” averring that the information in the payroll was correct and complete and that each worker was paid not less than the applicable wage rates and benefits for the classification of work performed, as specified in the applicable wage determination. Falsification of a payroll certification could subject Farfield to criminal penalties or civil liability under the False Claims Act (FCA).A union business manager suspected that Farfield had won government contracts with low bids by intending to pay less-skilled workers to perform certain work that would otherwise have been the bailiwick of higher-skilled, higher-paid workers. Ultimately, the union filed a qui tam FCA complaint. The United States declined to intervene. The court entered a $1,055,320.62 judgment against Farfield: $738,724.43 to the government and $316,596.19 to the union, plus $1,229,927.55 in attorney fees and $203,226.45 in costs. The Third Circuit affirmed. In view of the totality of the circumstances, Farfield’s Davis-Bacon violations were not minor or insubstantial. View "International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Farfield Co" on Justia Law

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The Council handles contracts for over 200 New Jersey municipalities, police departments, and school districts. Mid-American sells bulk road salt. The Council's members estimated their salt needs for the 2016-17 winter. The Council issued a comprehensive bid package, anticipating the need for 115,000 tons of rock salt. MidAmerican won the contract, which stated: There is no obligation to purchase [the estimated] quantity. As required by the contract, Mid-American obtained a performance bond costing $93,016; imported $4,800,000 worth of salt from Morocco; and paid $31,250 per month to store the salt and another $58,962.26 to cover it. Mid-American incurred at least another $220,000 in finance costs and additional transportation costs. Council members purchased less than five percent of the estimated tonnage. Mid-American claims “several” Council members purchased salt from MidAmerican’s competitors, who lowered their prices after MidAmerican won the contract.Mid-American sued the Council and 49 of its members, alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and bad faith under UCC Article 2. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. No valid requirements contract existed here because the contract was illusory. These sophisticated parties were capable of entering into precisely the contract they desired. Neither the Council nor its members ever promised to purchase from Mid-American all the salt they required View "Mid-American Salt LLC v. Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council" on Justia Law

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Care Alternatives provides hospice care to New Jersey patients, employing “interdisciplinary teams” of registered nurses, chaplains, social workers, home health aides, and therapists working alongside independent physicians who serve as hospice medical directors. Former Alternatives employees filed suit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733 alleging that Alternatives admitted patients who were ineligible for hospice care and directed its employees to improperly alter those patients’ Medicare certifications to reflect eligibility. They retained an expert, who opined in his report that, based on the records of the 47 patients he examined, the patients were inappropriately certified for hospice care 35 percent of the time. Alternatives’ expert testified that a reasonable physician would have found all of those patients hospice-eligible. The district court determined that a mere difference of opinion between experts regarding the accuracy of the prognosis was insufficient to create a triable dispute of fact as to the element of falsity and required that the plaintiffs provide evidence of an objective falsehood. Upon finding they had not adduced such evidence, the court granted Alternatives summary judgment. The Third Circuit vacated, rejecting the objective falsehood requirement for FCA falsity. The plaintiffs’ expert testimony created a genuine dispute of material fact as to falsity. View "Druding v. Care Alternatives" on Justia Law