On January 9, 2017, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in United States ex rel. Purcell v. MWI Corp., No. 16-361, ending one of the longest running False Claims Act cases in history—18 years and 136 days, to be exact. We followed this case closely in previous blog posts here, and here. The case is significant because it held that there is no False Claims Act liability for a contractor’s objectively reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous contract provision. On the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari, this objectively reasonable D.C. Circuit opinion remains good law.

The D.C. Circuit opinion has been cited with approval in multiple cases. E.g., United States v. Celgene Corp., 226 F. Supp. 3d 1032, 1051 (C.D. Cal. 2016); United States ex rel. Johnson v. Golden Gate Nat’l Senior Care, L.L.C., 223 F. Supp. 3d 882, 891 (D. Minn. 2016). See also United States ex rel. Donegan v. Anesthesia Assocs. of Kansas City, PC, 833 F.3d 874, 879 (8th Cir. 2016). The full circuit and district court breakdown of citations is as follows:

  • 6th Circuit – 1
  • 8th Circuit – 1
  • N.D. Alabama – 1
  • C.D. California – 1
  • D.C. District Court – 5
  • S.D. Florida – 2
  • S.D. Iowa – 1
  • D. Minnesota – 1
  • S.D.N.Y. – 1
  • N.D. Ohio – 1
  • D.S.C. – 1
  • N.D. Texas – 1
  • S.D. Texas – 1

In MWI, the government sought to put a small, family-owned company out of business simply because it interpreted an undefined term on a certificate different than how the Department of Justice defined the term decades after the fact. We anticipate the MWI decision will remain front-and-center in implied certification cases involving ambiguous or unclear statutes, regulations, or contractual provisions