Every year, the United States Supreme Court rejects nearly 98% of all cert petitions. However, when it comes to False Claims Act cases, the Court feels compelled to hear nearly every potential case, granting cert in eight False Claims Act cases in the last ten terms.
This trend continued recently, when the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. v. United States ex rel. Rigsby. Of particular note, the Court decided to scrutinize the Fifth Circuit’s decision in this case, even though the Government encouraged the Court to pass on this case.
While the Rigsby case raises a legal issue that has split the circuit courts, it is an issue of little import in the vast majority of False Claims Act cases. Specifically, the issue presented is whether the qui tam action must be dismissed when a relator violates the FCA’s seal provisions.
“Certainly, in this social media era, there is a greater temptation for qui tam relators to stand up for themselves in the public domain and potentially violate the False Claims Act’s seal provisions, explained Nolan Auerbach & White partner Jeb White. “However, actual seal violations are few and a far between.”
The Supreme Court has been less than friendly to the FCA in recent years. (In fact, the Court’s Allison Engine decision was the catalyst behind the 2009 and 2010 FCA Amendments.) However, there might be some hope this time, for there is a good chance that the Rigsby decision could fall to a 4-4 vote, which would leave the pro-relator circuit court decision on the books.