First Circuit Oral Argument Considers the Proper Standard Governing the False Claims Act’s “First-to-File” Rule

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The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently heard oral arguments in United States ex rel. Heineman-Guta v. Guidant Corp., et al. (12-1867). During oral argument, the panel considered, among other issues, the standard for evaluating whether a complaint was barred under the False Claims Act’s (“FCA”) “first-to-file” rule, and in particular, whether a first-filed complaint must satisfy Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b) in order to trigger the rule. This same issue is the basis for a recent circuit split among certain federal Courts of Appeals, with the Sixth and Ninth Circuits on one side, and the D.C. Circuit on the other. The decision in Heineman-Guta could ultimately align the First Circuit with one of those stances, or potentially carve out a new, third position altogether.

Circuit Split Surrounding the First-To-File Rule -

Under the first-to-file rule, when an individual files an action, no person other than the government may bring a related action based on the facts underlying the pending case. See 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(5). In the last decade, both the Sixth and Ninth Circuits have refused to apply the first-to-file bar when the first-filed complaint failed to satisfy Rule 9(b)’s heightened particularity requirement, reasoning that a deficient complaint could “not properly qualify as a ‘pending action’” under the FCA. United States v. ex rel. Poteet v. Medtronic, Inc., 552 F.3d 503, 516 (6th Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted); see also Walburn v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 431 F.3d 966, 972 (6th Cir. 2006); Campbell v. Redding Med. Ctr., 421 F.3d 817, 825 (9th Cir. 2005).

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Topics:  False Claims Act, First-to-File, Oral Argument

Published In: Business Torts Updates, Civil Procedure Updates, Conflict of Laws Updates, Government Contracting Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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