The FCA continues to be the federal government’s primary civil enforcement tool for investigating allegations that healthcare providers or government contractors defrauded the federal government. In the coming weeks, we continue to take a closer look at recent legal developments involving the FCA. This week, we examine the FCA’s first-to-file rule and its impact on a relator’s right to pursue FCA claims.
In June, the Supreme Court issued Universal Health Services, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar, a landmark opinion in which the Supreme Court addressed the standard for pleading materiality in FCA implied certification cases. The Supreme Court ultimately remanded the case to the First Circuit to resolve in the first instance whether the alleged violations met that standard, and last week, the First Circuit gave its answer: the violations were material.
The FCA continues to be the federal government’s primary civil enforcement tool for investigating allegations that healthcare providers or government contractors defrauded the federal government. In the coming weeks, we will take a closer look at recent legal developments involving the FCA. This week, we examine recent court decisions requiring relators to plead actual claims to satisfy the requirements of Rule 9(b) in order to avoid dismissal.
In the past, the First Circuit has shifted between requiring the identification of a specific false claim and applying a more flexible standard. Compare U.S. ex rel. Karvelas v. Melrose-Wakefield Hosp., 360 F.3d 220, 232 (1st Cir. 2004) (applying strict standard) abrogated on other grounds, Allison Engine Co. v. U.S. ex rel. Sanders, 553 U.S. 662 (2008), with U.S. ex rel. Duxbury v. Ortho Biotech Prods., L.P., 579 F.3d 13, 29 (1st Cir. 2009) (applying flexible standard). Last year, the First Circuit explained its approach as requiring “relators to connect allegations of fraud to particular false claims for payment, rather than a fraudulent scheme in the abstract.”
There are a number of key issues that will drive the government’s enforcement efforts in the coming year and that will have a significant impact on how healthcare fraud matters are pursued by relators asserting FCA claims and are defended on behalf of healthcare providers. In the coming weeks, we will examine these issues in greater depth and why healthcare providers should keep a close eye on these issues. This week, we examine the future of implied certification as a viable FCA theory of falsity.
In December 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the petition for writ of certiorari in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. Escobar and will consider whether and to what extent the implied certification theory is a viable theory of falsity under the FCA. This case undoubtedly will be one of the most closely watched FCA cases to be argued before the Supreme Court since the 1986 amendments to the FCA.