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Supreme Court Will Hear Whistleblower’s Qui Tam Case

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of the reinstatement of a whistleblower’s qui tam case against defense contractor KBR, Inc. alleging violations of the False Claims Act.  The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the case in 2013 after concluding that the whistleblower had not blown the six-year statute of limitations, because the statute was tolled while the country was at war pursuant to the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act.

The whistleblower, Benjamin Carter, initially filed the underlying qui tam action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  The district court dismissed the whistleblower’s case, and held that the original qui tam matter had been filed beyond the False Claims Act’s six-year statute of limitations.  The whistleblower appealed the dismissal.

According to the whistleblower, KBR provided logistical assistance to the U.S. military in Iraq pursuant to a government contract.  The whistleblower was employed by KBR as a reverse osmosis water purification unit operator at two camps serving the U.S. military in Iraq from mid-January to April 2005.  The whistleblower’s complaint alleged that KBR did not purify the military’s water in Iraq until May 2005, despite billing the federal government for water purification during the period January to April 2005.  In addition, the whistleblower claimed that KBR instructed its employees to bill the government for twelve-hour work days, regardless of whether they actually worked for twelve hours.

The appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision.  According to the Court of Appeals’ decision, it found that the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act was applicable because the country was at war when the False Claims Act allegations were presented.  In addition, it held that the whistleblower was not precluded from bringing a new action once the original actions were dismissed.

KBR then submitted a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States. On July 1, 2014, the Supreme Court granted the petition. Oral argument and a decision are expected in the court’s next term which begins in October.

To read about other cases brought under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, click here.