U.S. District Court for Central District of California Rules that Even Public Disclosures Lacking Particularity Operate as a Bar & Original Source Exception Requires Relator to Have Caused the Public Disclosures


In United States ex rel. Mateski v. Raytheon Co., No. 2:06-cv-3614-ODW, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26398 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 26, 2013), the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that public disclosures can bar a qui tam action even when they lack particularity and that a relator must have had a hand in the public disclosures to qualify as an original source.

Allegations and Procedural History:  Defendant Raytheon Co. developed the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (“VIIRS”) weather system for the federal government pursuant to a subcontract with a government contractor.  The relator alleged that Raytheon violated the FCA as a result of “cost overruns, noncompliance with VIIRS specifications, manufacturing and engineering defects, and overall mismanagement of the VIIRS program.”   Id. at *8.  The court held that the action was precluded by the False Claims Act’s public disclosure bar because the issues identified by the relator “were already publicly known — they were addressed extensively in government hearings, administrative reports, and news media.”  Id.

Ruling on Particularity of Public Disclosures: In finding that these public disclosures barred the relator’s action, Judge Otis D. Wright explained that it was irrelevant that they lacked particularity:  “[T]here is no particularity requirement for a suit to fall under the public disclosure bar — the phrase ‘allegations or transactions’ is construed broadly.   Id. at *7 (citing Schindler Elevator Corp. v. United States ex rel. Kirk, 131 S. Ct. 1885, 1891 (2011)) (interpreting pre-2010 version of public disclosure bar).

Ruling on Hand-in-the-Disclosure Requirement:  The court also found that the relator could not qualify as an “original source” because he had not had a hand in the public disclosures, as required in the Ninth Circuit.  Id. at *11(citing United States ex rel. Meyer v. Horizon Health Corp., 565 F.3d 1195, 1201 (9th Cir. 2009)).  As noted by the court, “some other circuits do not limit ‘original sources’ to those who were the cause of the public disclosure.”  Id. at *11-*12 n.3.