Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government Contracts

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The property owners, participants in the “Section 8” federal rental assistance program (42 U.S.C. 1437f(a)), sued the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority for allegedly breaching the contracts that governed payments to the owners under the program, by failing to approve automatic rent increases for certain years, by requiring the owners to submit comparability studies in order to receive increases, and by arbitrarily reducing the increases for non-turnover units by one percent. Because Wisconsin Housing receives all of its Section 8 funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Authority filed a third-party breach of contract claim against HUD. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Wisconsin Housing and dismissed the claims against HUD as moot. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the owners’ Section 8 contracts were renewed after the challenged requirements became part of the program. “The doctrine of disproportionate forfeiture simply does not apply,” and Wisconsin Housing did not breach any contracts by requiring rent comparability studies in certain circumstances or by applying a one percent reduction for non-turnover units. View "Evergreen Square of Cudahy v. Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority" on Justia Law

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Midwest Fence, which provides guardrails, challenged federal and state programs that offer advantages in highway construction contracting to disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs). For purposes of federally-funded highway construction, DBEs are small businesses that are owned and managed by “individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged,” 49 C.F.R. 26.5, primarily racial minorities and women, who have historically faced significant obstacles in the construction industry due to discrimination. States that accept federal highway funding must establish DBE participation goals for federally funded highway projects and must attempt to reach those goals through processes tailored to actual market conditions. Midwest, which is not a DBE, alleged that the DBE programs violated its equal protection rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government-defendants. While DBE programs permit contracting decisions to be made with reference to racial classifications and are subject to strict scrutiny, they serve a compelling government interest and are narrowly tailored to further that interest. Remedying the effects of past or present discrimination can be a compelling governmental interest. The program provides states with ample discretion to tailor their DBE programs to the realities of their own markets and requires the use of race- and gender-neutral measures before turning to race- and gender-conscious ones. View "Midwest Fence Corp. v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Uhlig brought False Claims Act and retaliation claims against his former employer, Flour, which had contracted with the U.S. Army to provide electrical engineering work in Afghanistan. Uhlig says Fluor knowingly breached the terms of its Army contract by using unlicensed electricians as journeymen and billing the government for the services. Uhlig also contends Fluor wrongfully terminated Uhlig as a whistleblower in violation of 31 U.S.C. 3730(h). The district court granted summary judgment for Fluor. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A plain reading of the contract documents is that Fluor needed to ensure that its electricians were qualified for the duties to which they were assigned by virtue of license, certification, training, or education. Nothing in the contract suggests that Fluor was required to elect one method of verifying its electricians’ qualification and that Fluor would then be limited to that method. Uhlig’s retaliation claim failed because he did not show that, at the time of the incidents at issue, a reasonable employee in Uhlig’s position would have believed Fluor was defrauding the government. View "Uhlig v. Fluor Corp." on Justia Law

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Kolbusz, a dermatologist, submitted thousands of claims to the Medicare system and private insurers for the treatment of actinic keratosis, a skin condition that sometimes leads to cancer. He received millions of dollars in payments. Convicted of six counts of mail or wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, 1343, he was sentenced to 84 months in prison plus $3.8 million in restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The evidence permitted a reasonable jury to conclude that many, if not substantially all, of the claims could not have reflected an honest medical judgment and that the treatment Kolbusz claimed to have supplied may have failed to help any patient who actually had actinic keratosis. Because the indictment charged a scheme to defraud, the prosecutor was entitled to prove the scheme as a whole, and not just the six exemplars described in the indictment. The judge did not err in excluding evidence that, after his arrest and indictment, Kolbusz continued to submit claims to Medicare, and many were paid. “It would have been regrettable to divert the trial into an examination of Medicare’s claims-processing procedures in 2013 and 2014, rather than whether Kolbusz knew that he was submitting false claims in 2010 and earlier." View "United States v. Kolbusz" on Justia Law

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Presser, who has 20 years of experience as a Wisconsin nurse and a nurse practitioner, began working with Acacia in 2011, providing psychiatric evaluations, managing patient medication, and providing other medical services. Presser alleges that Acacia and its owner, Freund, engaged in “upcoding,” provided unnecessary medical procedures, and then charged the federal and state governments for those expenses. The district court dismissed Presser’s qui tam action under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729 and the Wisconsin False Claims Act. Citing the need for particularity in pleading, the court noted Presser did not allege that the defendants actually sent any of the alleged claims or made any of the alleged statements to the state or federal governments. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that judgment except with respect to the claims regarding the use of an improper billing code, which were stated with sufficient particularity. Presser otherwise provided no medical, technical, or scientific context which would enable a reader of the complaint to understand why Acacia’s alleged actions amount to unnecessary care forbidden by the statute. View "Presser v. Acacia Mental Health Clinic, LLC" on Justia Law

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In order to receive federal housing funds (42 U.S.C. 2000d; the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601; and “42 U.S.C. 608(e)(5), 5304(b)(2), and 12705(b)(15)), the City of Chicago must certify that it is in compliance with federal requirements related to reducing the city’s admitted racial segregation. Hanna filed a qui tam suit, alleging that the city violated the False Claims Act because its policies, particularly “aldermanic privilege” and strategic zoning of relatively wealthy neighborhoods, have actually increased segregation, making its certifications false. Under “aldermanic privilege,” the City grants each alderman the “full authority to determine whether and where affordable, multifamily rental housing will be built and renovated in the ward.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Hanna did not allege the circumstances of the purported fraud with sufficient particularity to satisfy Federal Rule of Procedure 9(b). Hanna apparently had no insider information. He did not allege the “time, place, … and the method by which the misrepresentation was communicated” to him. Hanna’s complaint gave no information about which regulatory provisions Hanna thinks the city violated; it does not draw a link between the statutes Hanna cited and any particular alleged false certification. View "Hanna v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Horning won the subcontract for roofing work at the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The Davis‐Bacon Act, 40 U.S.C. 3141–43, requires contractors who perform construction for the federal government to pay their workers the “prevailing wage.” Department of Labor regulations at that time set the base rate for a Dayton Sheet Metal Worker at $26.41 per hour; the fringe benefit rate was another $16.82 an hour. The workers were properly classified and received the appropriate base rate. All employees who work at Horning for more than 90 days are eligible for insurance; some receive vacation days. After a year, they become eligible for matching contributions to a 401(k) account. Accountants advised Horning about the amount to deposit into its benefits trust to comply with ERISA and Davis‐Bacon. Horning deducted a flat hourly fee from the paycheck of each Medical Center worker, regardless of whether the employee was eligible for any benefits. The amount did not correspond to the actual monetary value of the benefits each individual employee received. The Union filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733, rather than filing under Davis-Bacon. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of Horning. Under the False Claims Act, the Union had to show that Horning knowingly made false statements (or misleading omissions) that were material to the government’s payment decision. The Union did not proffer enough evidence to permit a reasonable jury to conclude that Horning acted with such knowledge. View "Sheet Metal Workers Int'l Assoc. v. Horning Invs., LLC" on Justia Law

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William Charles Construction (WCC) entered into a labor agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for the “Biggsville” construction project to expand a section of Rt. 34 to four lanes. A jurisdictional dispute between two unions, each claiming the right for their member drivers to operate large trucks involved in the excavation work, was resolved by an arbitrator. Later, a Joint Grievance Committee (JGC) determined, under a subordinated collective bargaining agreement, that WCC owed the Teamsters back pay and fringe benefit contributions ($1.4 million) for having assigned the operation of heavy trucks to the International Union of Operating Engineers rather than the Teamsters. A second JGC award determined that WCC was liable for two days’ back pay for having assigned work to two Teamsters in violation of other Teamsters’ seniority rights. WCC filed a declaratory action under the Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185. The court granted the Teamsters summary judgment, finding that WCC filed its complaint outside the statute of limitations. The Seventh Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment to the Teamsters and dismissed the Teamsters’ counterclaim for enforcement of one of the JGC awards. WCC's challenge to the awards is not barred by the statute of limitations because WCC did not receive notice of their final entry. The greater of the two JGC awards is void because WCC did not agree to arbitration by the JGC. View "William Charles Constr. Co., LLC v. Teamsters Local Union 627" on Justia Law

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Garbe, an experienced pharmacist, began working at Kmart pharmacy in Ohio in 2007. When Garbe picked up a personal prescription at a competitor pharmacy, he discovered the competitor pharmacy had charged his Medicare Part D insurer far less than Kmart ordinarily charged it for the same prescription. He inspected Kmart’s pharmacy reimbursement claims and discovered that Kmart routinely charged customers with insurance—whether public or private—higher prices than customers who paid out of pocket, even ignoring “discount programs sales. Garbe shared his discovery with the government and filed a qui tam suit in 2008. The government has not intervened. Garbe asserts that Kmart’s “usual and customary” prices should be based on the prices Kmart charged the majority of its cash customers. The district court granted Garbe partial summary judgment. On interlocutory appeal, the Seventh Circuit, reversed in part, holding that Medicare Part D Pharmacy Benefit Managers and Plan Sponsors are not “officers or employees of the United States” for purposes of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a). The court agreed that Garbe has satisfied the materiality requirement under the Act for his Medicare Part D claims; and that Kmart’s “discount” prices were offered to the “general public.” View "Garbe v. Kmart Corp." on Justia Law

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Under the Urbanized Area Formula Program, 49 U.S.C. 5307, the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) administers grant funding to urban transit programs for “operating costs of equipment and facilities for use in public transportation.” Recipients must submit “financial, operating, and asset condition information” to the National Transit Database. The agency apportions grants based, in part, on the number of Vehicle Revenue Miles (VRM) that accrue while a vehicle is “in revenue service,” available to the general public. In 2005, the Illinois House of Representatives called for a performance audit of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The audit concluded that the CTA, from possibly as early as 1986, had been overstating its VRM and had received higher than justified UAFP disbursements. Notified of the report, the FTA required that CTA revise its data from 2011 forward. In 2012, a nonprofit watchdog organization contacted the Department of Justice requesting an investigation into the CTA’s reporting practices. The group then filed suit under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, agreeing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the allegations of wrongdoing had been publicly disclosed at the time the action was filed. View "Cause of Action v. CTA" on Justia Law