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On January 26, 2017, the Fourth Circuit heard oral argument in United States ex rel. Omar Badr v. Triple Canopy, one of four False Claims Act decisions that the Supreme Court vacated and remanded for further consideration in light of the Court’s June 2016 holding regarding the implied certification theory in Universal Health Servs. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016).  In Triple Canopy, the relator alleges that a security contractor responsible for ensuring the safety of an air base in a combat zone knowingly employed guards who allegedly falsified marksmanship scores, and presented claims to the government for payment for those unqualified guards. The defendant prevailed on a motion to dismiss at the district court after demonstrating that the government failed to plead that it ever reviewed — and therefore ever relied on — the allegedly false scorecards. United States ex rel. Badr v. Triple Canopy, Inc., 950 F. Supp. 2d 888 (E.D. Va. 2013). The Fourth Circuit reversed, explaining: “Common sense strongly suggests that the Government’s decision to pay a contractor for providing base security in an active combat zone would be influenced by knowledge that the guards could not, for lack of a better term, shoot straight … If Triple Canopy believed that the marksmanship requirement was immaterial to the Government’s decision to pay, it was unlikely to orchestrate a scheme to falsify records on multiple occasions.” 775 F.3d 628, 637–38 (4th Cir. 2015).

As the authors predicted in a recent “Bloomberg Law Insight,” the panel on remand focused on the similarities between the guards who couldn’t shoot straight and an analogy used by the Supreme Court in Escobar—i.e., that if the government enters into a contract for the purchase of firearms, the ability of the guns to shoot is a material condition regardless of whether it is spelled out in the contract.  Counsel for the defendant attempted to distinguish the facts in Triple Canopy from the analogy in Escobar—but if the comments from the panel are any indication—defendant’s efforts to get the Fourth Circuit to affirm the lower court seem to have missed the mark.

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Photo of Brian Tully McLaughlin Brian Tully McLaughlin

Brian Tully McLaughlin is a partner in the Government Contracts Group in Washington, D.C. and co-chair of the False Claims Act Practice. Tully’s practice focuses on False Claims Act investigations and litigation, particularly trial and appellate work, as well as litigation of a…

Brian Tully McLaughlin is a partner in the Government Contracts Group in Washington, D.C. and co-chair of the False Claims Act Practice. Tully’s practice focuses on False Claims Act investigations and litigation, particularly trial and appellate work, as well as litigation of a variety of complex claims, disputes, and recovery matters. Tully’s False Claims Act experience spans procurement fraud, healthcare fraud, defense industry fraud, and more. He conducts internal investigations and represents clients in government investigations who are facing fraud or False Claims Act allegations. Tully has successfully litigated False Claims Act cases through trial and appeal, both those brought by whistleblowers / qui tam relators and the Department of Justice alike. He also focuses on affirmative claims recovery matters, analyzing potential claims and changes, counseling clients, and representing government contractors, including subcontractors, in claims and disputes proceedings before administrative boards of contract appeals and the Court of Federal Claims, as well as in international arbitration. His claims recovery experience includes unprecedented damages and fee awards. Tully has appeared and tried cases before judges and juries in federal district courts, state courts, and administrative boards of contract appeals, and he has argued successful appeals before the D.C. Circuit, the Federal Circuit, and the Fourth and Seventh Circuits.