Utah District Court dismisses whistleblower retaliation claims because of statute of limitations

by Ben Vernia | July 5th, 2010

In a June 24 decision in Johnson v. EG&G Defense Materials, Inc., Utah district judge Ted Stewart granted the company’s motion to dismiss the suit of its former employee, finding that her claims were time-barred.

The court first noted that the False Claims Act’s whistleblower retaliation provision, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h), does not include a statute of limitations, and that under the Supreme Court’s decision in Graham County Soil & Water Conserv. Dist. v. United States, 545 U.S. 409, 422 (2005), it was required to borrow the most closely analogous state limitations period. In the case before it, that was for the tort of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, a four-year limitations period.

The court then rejected the plaintiff’s argument that, although she was terminated in 2004, the period did not begin to run until she learned two years later that the discharge had been in violation of the act. Instead, the court reasoned, she was injured when she was fired, and knew that the company was responsible when it occurred. The court also refused to permit her to amend her complaint, reasoning that it would be futile to do so.

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