3rd Circuit affirms summary judgment against whistleblower, concludes highway contracts were ambiguous

by Ben Vernia | June 4th, 2014

On June 2, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed, in an unpublished opinion, the district court’s grant of summary judgment in US ex rel Arnold v. CMC Engin. In the declined qui tam, the whistleblower alleged that the defendant engineering company had provided inspectors to federally funded Pennsylvania highway projects who failed to meet contractual experience requirements.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the district court that because of the contract’s conflicting and ambiguous terms (including a catch-all provision that permitted inspectors to meet the requirements through “[a]ny equivalent combination of experience and/or training which provides the required knowledge, skills, and abilities”), no reasonable jury could conclude that the company had knowingly submitted false claims within the meaning of the False Claims Act.

The court rejected, however, the defendant’s argument that the relator was not an original source, and refused to address the defendant’s argument that the state’s knowledge precluded False Claims Act liability.

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