While not always as drastic as deciding between life and death, as in Hamlet, False Claims Act cases are no different from other civil actions where the parties proceed to trial while strategically weighing the probabilities of a favorable outcome or a huge loss. This past year has been no different and there are a few noteworthy examples that demonstrate the litigation risks that parties encounter in qui tam cases.
As happened recently in a case in the Eastern District of Texas, United States ex rel. Joshua Harman v. Trinity Industries, Inc., No. 12-cv-0089 (E.D. Tex.), a case in which Stone & Magnanini LLP had some involvement, a federal jury determined, following an initial mistrial, that a manufacturer of highway guardrail components was liable for violations of the False Claims Act. The relator alleged, in part, that certain components of the guardrails were materially modified without notice to the Federal Highway Administration and, as a result, caused false certifications regarding compliance with government standards. The jury concluded that the guardrail manufacturer cheated the government out of $175 million, which could be trebled and added to a penalty.