“Materiality” ends long-running FCA case

The contentious, high-profile False Claims Act case of U.S. ex rel Harman v. Trinity Industries ended with complete victory for the defense, based substantially on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent opinion about the element of “materiality” in Universal Health Services v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar, 136 S.Ct.1989 (2016). While the Harman opinion touches on many other aspects of the trial evidence and the requirements of the FCA, its central teaching its is application of Escobar, as applied to the government’s interaction with and payment for the highway guardrails at issue: “[I]f the Government pays a particular claim in full despite its actual knowledge that certain requirements were violated, that is very strong evidence that those requirements are not material. Or, if the Government regularly pays a particular type of claim in full despite actual knowledge that certain requirements were violated, and has signaled no change in position, that is strong evidence that the requirements are not material.” No. 15-41172 (Sept. 29, 2017).

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