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MWI Lives On One Year After the Supreme Court Denied Certiorari

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

Copyright © 2022, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.National Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 10

About this Author

Matthew Turetzky, Government Contracts, Sheppard Mullin, Law firm

Matthew Turetzky is an associate in the Government Contracts, Investigations and International Trade Practice Group in the firm's Washington, D.C. office.

Matthew's practice focuses on False Claims Act litigation in federal district and appellate courts, government contractor-specific litigation and counseling, and bid protests before the Government Accountability Office and Court of Federal Claims. Matthew also assists with other government contracts and complex civil litigation matters.