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Kellogg Brown & Root Servs. v. United States ex rel. Carter

Supreme Court of the United States

January 13, 2015, Argued; May 26, 2015, Decided

No. 12-1497

Opinion

Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court.

Wars have often provided “exceptional opportunities” for fraud on the United States Government. See United States v. Smith, 342 U.S. 225, 228, 72 S. Ct. 260, 96 L. Ed. 252 (1952). “The False Claims Act was adopted in 1863 and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in order to combat rampant fraud in Civil War defense contracts.” S. Rep. No. 99-345, p. 8 (1986). Predecessors of the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act were enacted to address similar problems that arose during the First and Second World Wars. See Smith, supra, at 228-229, 72 S. Ct. 260, 96 L. Ed. 252.

In this case, we must decide two questions regarding those laws: first, whether the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act applies only to criminal charges or also to civil claims; second, [***6]  whether the False Claims Act’s first-to-file bar keeps new claims out of court only while related claims are still alive or whether it may bar those claims in perpetuity.

The False Claims Act (FCA) imposes liability on any person who “knowingly presents . . . a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval,” 31 U.S.C. §3729(a)(1)(A), “to an officer or employee of the United States,” 3729(b)(2)(A)(i). The FCA may be enforced not just through litigation brought by the Government itself, but also through civil qui tam actions that are filed by private parties, called relators, “in the name of the Government.” §3730(b).

In a qui tam suit under the FCA, the relator files a complaint under seal and serves the United States with a copy of the complaint and a disclosure of all material evidence. §3730(b)(2). After reviewing these materials, the United States may “proceed with the action, in which case the action shall be conducted by the Government,” or it may “notify the court that it declines to take over the action, in which case the person bringing the action shall have the right to conduct the action.” §3730(b)(4). Regardless of the option that the United States selects, it retains  [*1974]  the right at any time to dismiss the action entirely, [***7]  §3730(c)(2)(A), or to settle the case, §3730(c)(2)(B).

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135 S. Ct. 1970 *; 191 L. Ed. 2d 899 **; 2015 U.S. LEXIS 3407 ***; 575 U.S. 650; 83 U.S.L.W. 4354; 25 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 281

KELLOGG BROWN & ROOT SERVICES, INC., et al., Petitioners v. UNITED STATES ex rel. BENJAMIN CARTER

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Subsequent History: On remand at, Judgment entered by United States ex rel. Carter v. Halliburton Co., 609 Fed. Appx. 159, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 12109 (4th Cir., July 14, 2015)

Prior History:  [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

United States ex rel. Carter v. Halliburton Co., 710 F.3d 171, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 5309 (4th Cir. Va., 2013)

Disposition: Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

CORE TERMS

first-to-file, indictable, offenses, suspended, qui tam, suspension, limitations, statute of limitations, civil claim, criminal charge, first-filed, suits

Governments, Federal Government, Claims By & Against, Legislation, Statute of Limitations, Governmental Entities, Military & Veterans Law, Warfare, Tolling