Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government Contracts
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In 2013, Smith began working with DEA as a subcontractor in the geospatial intelligence program. Smith has a disability that adversely affects her mobility; she was granted accommodations. In 2015, Smith was authorized to work remotely 50 percent of the time. Through 2017, Smith received positive performance reviews. Smith’s position did not change in 2016 when CRSA became the prime contractor. In 2017, Quinn, DEA’s Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator became dissatisfied when Smith was unable to answer questions about the Program. Quinn directed that Smith begin reporting to DEA headquarters. Smith lobbied to maintain her remote work arrangement. DEA officials did not respond to Smith’s request but, because of parking and transportation problems, Smith intermittently continued to work remotely despite notification that she was not authorized to do so. DEA concluded it could not grant the request; the CSRA contract did not expressly provide for remote work and DEA’s building lease limited the issuance of parking passes to employees. DEA alleges that it developed concerns about Smith’s technical skills and performance.DEA officials retrieved the equipment that supported Smith’s remote access and revoked Smith’s security clearance. CSRA terminated the Consultant Agreement. Smith sued, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 791, against DEA, and violations of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12101, against CSRA. The district court rejected the claims on summary judgment.The Fourth Circuit affirmed as to Smith’s disability discrimination claim but vacated as to her retaliation claim. Smith was an independent contractor and not a CSRA employee. DEA was not required to offer Smith a remote work accommodation and its failure to do so was not a refusal to accommodate but Smith established a prima facie case of retaliation. View "Smith v. CSRA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Citynet filed a qui tam action against West Virginia officials, alleging that defendants defrauded the United States when obtaining federal funding for a program to improve broadband connectivity for West Virginia residents, in violation of the False Claims Act (FCA). Specifically, Citynet alleged that Defendants Gianato and Given, respectively the Director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the State Technology Officer, along with other defendants, knowingly submitted false statements and records to the United States as part of their application for funding under the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and, once the funding was obtained, made false claims in drawing down funds under the Program.The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's immunity ruling and remanded with instructions to deny Gianato and Given's claim of qualified immunity. Because the district court's ruling was contingent on the answer to the threshold legal question of whether qualified immunity may be invoked as a defense to FCA claims, the court exercised appellate jurisdiction and held that qualified immunity does not apply to protect government officials from claims against them for fraud under the Act. View "United States ex rel. Citynet, LLC v. Gianato" on Justia Law

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In this case arising from a bond transaction involving a municipal golf course in the City of Buena Vista, Virginia (the City), the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s motion to dismiss a ten-count complaint filed by ACA Financial Guaranty Corporation (ACA) and SunTrust Bank (Bank) against the City and the Public Recreational Facilities Authority (Authority), holding that the complaint failed to allege claims for which relief could be granted.In an effort to refinance a loan that the Authority took out to finance the construction of the golf course, the Authority issued over $9 million in bonds. The Authority and the Bank entered into a trust agreement regarding the bonds. To repay the bonds, the Authority leased the golf course to the City. The City and the Authority then issued deeds of trust to the Bank pledging certain property as security. The City later failed to pay the rent due on the golf course lease, and the Authority could not repay the bonds. ACA, which provided insurance on the bonds, and the Bank sued. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the City’s obligation to make rent payments was not legally enforceable when the obligation was expressly subject to the city’s annual decision to appropriate funds. View "ACA Financial Guaranty v. City of Buena Vista, Virginia" on Justia Law

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The Yearsley doctrine applies to claims arising under federal law. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of GDIT's motion to dismiss, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, an action alleging that GDIT violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The court held that GDIT was immune from suit under the Yearsley doctrine, which immunizes government contractors from suit when the government authorized the contractor's actions and the government validly conferred that authorization. The court found nothing in Yearsley or its progeny that limited its application solely to state law liability. The court held that the district court did not err in treating Yearsley applicability as a jurisdictional bar to suit and granting GDIT's motion to dismiss. View "Cunningham v. General Dynamics Information Technology, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a contract dispute between BAE and Korea, BAE sought a declaratory judgment that it had not breached any contractual obligation to Korea and a permanent injunction barring Korea from prosecuting its suit against BAE in Korean courts. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of BAE's requested declaration, but refused to issue a permanent injunction. The court held that the BAE-Korea agreement's permissive forum selection clause provided no basis for dismissing this action; Korea was not immune from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act; the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) structure shields a U.S. contractor, such as BAE, from liability; enforcement of the BAE-Korea agreement would undermine the control the United States retained in all FMS transactions over price; because the U.S. government retained control over price in an FMS transaction, a foreign state generally has no cause of action — against anyone — if the price demanded by the U.S. government increases over time; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying BAE's petition for a permanent anti-suit injunction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "BAE Systems Technology v. Republic of Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Admin." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that the first-to-file rule of the False Claim Act mandates dismissal of a relator's action brought while related actions were pending, even after the related actions have been dismissed and the relator's complaint has been amended, albeit without mention of the related actions. In this case, because the Carter Action violated the first-to-file rule in a manner not cured by subsequent developments, the action must be dismissed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgments. View "US ex rel. Carter v. Halliburton Co." on Justia Law

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On remand from the United States Supreme Court, the Fourth Circuit held that the Government stated a claim under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729(a), against Triple Canopy. The Fourth Circuit reconsidered its earlier panel decision in light of Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S.Ct. 1989 (2016), and held that the Government properly alleged an FCA claim -- that Triple Canopy knowingly presented false claims -- under section 3729(a)(1)(A). In this case, the Government sufficiently alleged falsity, and nothing in Universal Health undermines the Fourth Circuit's earlier conclusion that Triple Canopy's falsity was material. The Fourth Circuit reinstated those portions of its opinion that were not impacted by Universal Health, and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States ex rel. Badr v. Triple Canopy" on Justia Law

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BBII filed suit against the City for breach of contract, alleging that the City unlawfully assessed liquidated damages against the company for failure to complete a construction project on time. This case involved two public works contracts entered into by the parties, in which BBII agreed to build certain parts of a wastewater treatment system aimed at reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The court agreed with the district court that BBII is not excused from the normal requirement of administrative exhaustion under Maryland law. The court rejected BBII's remaining claims and affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Balfour Beatty Infrastructure v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a qui tam suit under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, and the state equivalents, alleging that Manor Care was overbilling the government for medical services. Plaintiff also alleged a separate claim of retaliation, claiming that he was terminated after he notified his employer of the alleged overbilling. Christine A. Ribik had previously filed a qui tam suit under seal in the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of the United States against Manor Care. The court dismissed the complaint under the FCA's first-to-file rule. The court concluded that plaintiff has not managed to avoid the first-to-file bar simply by alleging additional facts relating to how Manor Care overbilled, even though some of those specific allegations were not mentioned in Ribik's complaint. The court also concluded that plaintiff's alternative argument, that his complaint should not be dismissed because the district court consolidated them with Ribik's, failed under the plain language of the FCA. Therefore, the district court properly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's qui tam action under the FCA. The court concluded, however, that the first-to-file rule has no relation to a claim for retaliation. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not support its decision with any discussion or authority to establish that any of the states apply the FCA first-to-file rule, or its equivalent, to that state's statute. Therefore, the court affirmed in part, but vacated and remanded that part of the judgment concerning plaintiff's retaliation and state fraud claims. View "US ex rel. Carson v. Manor Care, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose more than fifteen years ago as a bid-rigging scheme conjured up by shipping businesses to defraud the United States. In the qui tam proceedings at issue, a jury returned a verdict in 2011 against the Gosselin defendants. Relators appealed, contesting the district court's refusal to award civil penalties. The court granted relief and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the district court was called upon to resolve the issue of whether relator Kurt Bunk was entitled to recover his judgment from another defendant, Government Logistics N.V. (GovLog). As a preliminary issue, the court concluded that the Peacock v. Thomas principle is inapplicable here, and the district court’s exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over the successor corporation liability claim against GovLog was entirely appropriate. The court concluded that the district court properly declined to apply the substantial continuity test here. However, the district court erred by dismissing Bunk's successor corporation liability claim as insufficiently pleaded. Finally, the court concluded that the district court erred in making the summary judgment award to GovLog. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "US ex rel. Kurt Bunk v. Government Logistics N.V." on Justia Law