Akin Gump Achieves Successful Summary Judgment Motion in False Claims Act Case

(Los Angeles) – Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP obtained a significant victory on summary judgment in a federal False Claims Act (FCA) case arising from the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

The U.S. Humane Society initiated the suit in question in 2008, alleging that operators at a California slaughterhouse failed to comply with the terms of their contracts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The federal government intervened in the suit in 2009, seeking more than $300 million in damages and civil penalties based on claims that various entities allegedly involved in the Chino, Calif., facility obtained government contracts through false certifications. Two of the government’s FCA claims targeted Akin Gump clients JoAnn Magidow and the estate of Aaron Magidow based on a belief that Mr. Magidow had secretly directed the allegedly false applications for inspection and contract bids and thus “caused” false statements and false claims to be made. The Akin Gump attorneys moved for partial summary judgment on the grounds that the government had obtained no evidence to support its causation theory.

After initially issuing a tentative order denying the summary judgment motion and adopting all of the government’s reasoning, Judge Virginia A. Phillips of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, subsequently reversed herself after oral argument, saying that she saw “no nexus” between Aaron Magidow’s actions and the submission of any false statements or false claims. The ruling follows more than four years of litigation and provides groundbreaking precedent for the proper standard for causation in FCA cases in the 9th Circuit. 

The Akin Gump team was led by litigation partner Edward Woods. The motion was argued by partner Susan Leader and briefed by counsel Amjad Khan and associate Kelsey Morris, all members of the firm’s litigation practice.

Khan was quoted in a Law360 story on the ruling, saying the government had “grossly overreached in this case by attempting to foist liability on the estate and widow of a man who was deceased at the time the alleged misconduct took place.”

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a leading international law firm, numbers more than 850 lawyers in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

 

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