Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Hunt

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: May 13, 2019
  • Case #: 18–315
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
  • Full Text Opinion

§3731(b)(2) of the False Claims Act applies to suits initiated by private persons where the government has declined to intervene and private persons of a non-intervened suit do not constitute officials of the United States for the purposes of triggering the three year limitation period of §3731(b)(2).

Respondent filed a complaint alleging that Petitioners defrauded the government by submitting false claims for payment under a defense subcontract. The U.S. declined to intervene and Petitioners moved to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds. Respondent argued he satisfied the statute of limitations under 31 U.S.C. §3731(b)(2), because he filed within three years of informing federal agents of the alleged fraud. The district court dismissed the action, but the court of appeals reversed and remanded, holding §3731(b)(2) applies where the U.S. does not intervene and that the limitation period begins when the government official charged with acting knew or should have known the relevant facts.The Supreme Court affirmed that §3731(b)(2) applies to suits by private parties where the government declines to intervene, reasoning that no textual basis existed for Petitioner’s argument that the phrase “civil action” should depend upon government intervention and that canons of statutory construction generally required such phrases to have fixed meanings. Similarly, the Court stated that no textual basis existed for Petitioner’s argument that the private party bringing suit constituted the official of the U.S. charged with acting under the statute, while noting that the argument conflicted with the phrase’s ordinary meaning of being appointed or employed by the U.S. AFFIRMED.

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