This is the first post of a two-part discussion of recent developments related to the materiality standard set forth by the Supreme Court in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar. Our second post will cover government intervention decisions, the “essence of the bargain” test, and the materiality of Anti-Kickback Statute violations.
The Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar continues to play a significant role in FCA litigation, particularly with respect to courts’ analyses of the FCA’s materiality element. In Escobar, the Supreme Court described the materiality element as “rigorous” and “demanding” and set forth a number of non-exclusive considerations to guide the materiality inquiry, which primarily focus on the government’s actual conduct and its payment (or non-payment) of purportedly false claims. In 2019, courts continued to grapple with specific applications of Escobar’s directives, with some courts appearing to apply its materiality guidance less “rigorously” than others.
Some Appellate Courts Appear to Apply Escobar Less Rigorously Than Others
As we have previously discussed, the seemingly irreconcilable decisions issued by the nation’s circuit courts about how Escobar’s non-exclusive factors should apply in particular cases led parties in at least three such cases to seek further clarity from the Supreme Court. But last year the Supreme Court denied review in each of those three cases, perhaps signaling that – at least for now – it is content to allow the various issues raised in Escobar to continue to percolate in the lower courts.