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Rockwell Int'l Corp. v. United States

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20071
Nos. No. 05-1272, (U.S., 03/27/2007) rev'd

The Court reversed a Tenth Circuit ruling in favor of an engineer who filed a qui tam suit against his former employer—a nuclear weapons plant—under the False Claims Act (FCA). While working at the plant, the engineer predicted that the company's system for creating solid "pondcrete" blocks from toxic pond sludge and cement would not work due to problems in piping the sludge. A year after being laid off, the engineer filed suit under §3730 of the FCA alleging that the plant knowingly presented false and fraudulent claims to the government concerning its compliance with various environmental laws in order to induce the government to make payments or approvals under a contract. The FCA eliminates federal-court jurisdiction over actions under §3730 that are based upon the public disclosure of allegations or transactions "unless the action is brought by the Attorney General or the person bringing the action is an original source of the information." Concluding that the engineer was an "original source," the lower court found in favor of the engineer and the government, which intervened in the case. The Supreme Court disagreed. The engineer did not meet the requirement that a relator have "direct and independent knowledge of the information on which the allegations are based" for purposes of being an original source. The only false claim found by the jury involved pondcrete discovered after the engineer left his employment. Thus, he did not know that the pondcrete had failed; he had only predicted it. Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.J., and Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, J., joined. Breyer, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.