June 16, 2023
Decided June 16, 2023
United States, ex rel. Polansky v. Executive Health Resources, Inc., No. 21-1052
Today, the Supreme Court held 8-1 that the federal government may move at any time to dismiss a False Claims Act lawsuit over the objection of a relator, so long as it first intervenes in the action.
Background: The False Claims Act (FCA) allows private individuals, known as relators, to bring claims on behalf of the government against parties who have allegedly defrauded the federal government. When a relator files a complaint based on an alleged violation of the FCA, the government has the opportunity to intervene and litigate the action itself, or it can decline to intervene and allow the relator to litigate the action on its behalf. The statute provides that the Government “may dismiss the action”—notwithstanding the objections of the relator—if “the court has provided the [relator] with an opportunity for a hearing on the motion.” 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(2)(A).
Jesse Polansky brought an FCA claim against Executive Health Resources. The government initially declined to intervene. After Polansky spent five years litigating the case, the government moved to dismiss the case, citing discovery costs, the low likelihood that the lawsuit would succeed, and concerns about Polansky’s credibility. The district court granted the government’s motion and the Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting Polansky’s argument that the government lacks authority to seek dismissal under § 3730(c)(2)(A) after declining to intervene at the outset of the case.
Issue: Whether the government can seek dismissal of an FCA suit despite initially declining to intervene and, if so, what standard applies.
The government may seek to dismiss an FCA lawsuit even after initially declining to intervene, as long as it intervenes before moving to dismiss. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)’s generally applicable standards—which permit voluntary dismissals “on terms that the court considers proper”—govern the government’s dismissal motion, but courts applying those standards should grant the government’s views substantial deference.
“[W]e hold that the Government may seek dismissal of an FCA action over a relator’s objection so long as it intervened sometime in the litigation, whether at the outset or afterward.”
Justice Kagan, writing for the Court
Gibson Dunn submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in support of the winning respondent: Executive Health Resources, Inc.
What It Means:
The Court’s opinion is available here.
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Appellate and Constitutional Law Practice
|Thomas H. Dupree Jr.
|Allyson N. Ho
|Julian W. Poon
|Lucas C. Townsend
|Bradley J. Hamburger
|Brad G. Hubbard
False Claims Act / Qui Tam Defense & FDA and Health Care Practices
|John D.W. Partridge
|Jonathan M. Phillips
|Winston Y. Chan
|Gustav W. Eyler