The Eleventh Circuit has become the first federal court of appeals to directly address whether the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause applies to the monetary award in a declined False Claims Act (FCA) case. And in an opinion issued December 29, 2021, the court held that it does. See U.S. ex rel. Yates v. Pinellas Hematology & Oncology, P.A., __ F. 4th __, 2021 WL 6133175 (11th Cir. 2021).
The defendant was a clinical laboratory with multiple locations. Some had Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certificates required to conduct lab tests; others did not. The jury found that the defendant had submitted 214 claims to Medicare in which it falsely represented that tests were performed at locations with CLIA certificates, when in fact they had been performed at locations without CLIA certificates.
The jury found that the United States had sustained $755.54 in actual damages. The district court trebled the government’s actual damages and imposed the lowest per claim civil penalty, $5,500, resulting in a total judgment of $1.179 million. The defendant challenged this award on appeal under the Excessive Fines Clause.