D.C. District Court Rules FCA Claims Survive Relator’s Death

 

In a case involving allegations by two relators that a government subcontractor submitted false invoices for information technology services, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia joined the resounding chorus and held that the claims that a qui tam plaintiff asserts on behalf of the United States survive his death. U.S. ex rel. Hood v. Satory Global, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73114 (D.D.C. May 23, 2013).

The courts consistently have so ruled since the Supreme Court held in 2003 that the False Claims Act serves both remedial and punitive purposes.

In the case at hand, one of the two relators passed away after the filing of his complaint. In addressing the survivability of his claims, the court noted that the general rule under federal common law is that when a federal statute contains no explicit statement on survival rights, as is true of the FCA, then the rights of action survive a plaintiff’s death if the statute is remedial, not penal. Id. at *24. The court further noted that in the leading case addressing the question of whether False Claims Act qui tam claims survive the death of the relator, United States v. NEC Corp., 11 F.3d 136 (11th Cir. 1993), the Eleventh Circuit answered the question in the affirmative, on the ground that “the qui tamprovisions are remedial and in no way act to penalize the FCA defendant.” Id. at *25, citing NEC Corp., 11 F. 3d at 139. The court observed that all but one district court had ruled accordingly, but noted that in 2003 the Supreme Court held that the purposes served by the False Claims Act are both punitive and remedial. Id. at *26-27, citing Cook County, Ill. v. United States ex rel. Chandler, 538 U.S. 119, 129-35 (2003.) Agreeing with the reasoning of the 11th Circuit in in NEC Corp. and the holdings of numerous district courts, including a number of courts that have considered the issue after the Supreme Court’s Chandlerdecision, the court ruled that the relator’s qui tam claims survived his death.