Akin Gump’s Robert Huffman, Peter Hutt Comment on 4th Circuit’s Holding on FCA Claims
In Law360’s article “4th Circ. Shows Expired FCA Claims Can Haunt Contractors,” Akin Gump partners Robert Huffman, who heads the firm’s government contracts practice, and Peter Hutt of the firm’s litigation and FCA practices comment on a 4th Circuit holding in U.S. ex rel Carter v. Halliburton that the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA) tolls the statute of limitations for FCA claims during wartime.
Huffman said, “The [FCA] itself isn't narrowly tied to the war effort. Even cases involving [U.S. Department of Transportation]-funded transportation projects in Seattle, or health care contracts performed entirely in the Unites States, or even the Lance Armstrong case—why wouldn't it suspend the statute of limitations there, in all those cases?”
Hutt noted, “The whole issue came out of the blue last year. Until the BNP Paribas decision last year, no one litigating under the False Claims Act had considered whether the statute of limitations is tolled by this rather obscure federal law passed during WWII.”
Huffman added that the court’s finding will likely be challenged by other defendants facing similar claims that could be tolled by the WSLA, stating “Other courts may well disagree with that, because the entire purpose of the WSLA is to allow the government to devote its attention to the war effort, not prosecuting fraud actions. There's absolutely no reason to apply the WSLA to cases brought by qui tam plaintiffs.”
He said that Congress may also intervene in this debate, as it has amended the FCA on several occasions in recent times, noting “It's one of those decisions and one of those issues that comes out of nowhere and unsettles the whole landscape.”
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