by Ben Vernia | April 30th, 2010
In an April 18 opinion, District Judge Mary Scriven in Orlando denied a FEMA trailer contractor’s motion for summary judgment in a qui tam suit which alleged that the company submitted false claims because it lacked a license to install manufactured homes called for in its contract. The Court first found that issues of fact existed whether the contractor was required to install the homes (which were travel trailers which were affixed to the ground and connected to the electrical and sewer lines of the adjacent home), and whether the defendant had practiced unlicensed general contracting by hiring subcontractors to perform the installation.
Turning to the question of scienter, the Court agreed that the relator raised genuine issues of fact, noting the existence of a dispute over whether a license was required, and under an implied certification theory. In addition to the language of the contract, which required compliance with federal, state, and local codes and regulations, the relator had supported his opposition to the motion with an affidavit of the FEMA contracting officer, who wrote that state law concerning licensing was “[n]ot only a condition of payment, we would have terminated the contracts if we would have known otherwise.”
The relator’s summary judgment victory was Pyrrhic, however. After a brief trial, the court entered judgment for the defendant.