11th Circuit affirms dismissal of False Claims Act suit against Disney on public disclosure grounds

by bvernia | January 18th, 2010

On January 14, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Middle District of Florida’s dismissal of a qui tam suit brought against Walt Disney World Co. and the Reedy Creek Improvement District. In the case, the whistleblower alleged that Disney and the District had made misrepresentations to the Postal Service to obtain a contract to operate a post office in the district. The complaint alleged that company had district had falsely stated that it provided nonsegregated housing for its employees, and that the district had no parent company. The relator also alleged that the district’s Board of Supervisors was not duly elected and so lacked the authority to sign the contract.

The 11th Circuit first agreed that the suit was based on publicly disclosed information. The housing allegation, the court found, was based on the district’s practice of de-annexing residential housing parcels, a practice on which newspapers had reported. Similarly, her allegation that the district’s parent company certification was false derived from a federal court opinion, and her allegation concerning the district’s Board of Supervisors stemmed from state administrative reports and news articles. The court described the relator’s assertions that she was an original source of the information as merely conclusory.

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