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United States ex rel. Temple v. Sigmatech Inc.

United States District Court, Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division

March 30, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ex rel. JIMMY TEMPLE Relator,
v.
SIGMATECH, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Defendant Sigmatech, Inc. provides systems engineering and technical assistance services to the U.S. Army through a subcontract with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). Relator Jimmy Temple worked as a technical director for Sigmatech from February 2010 until Sigmatech terminated his employment on November 15, 2011. Mr. Temple brings this action as a qui tam relator on behalf of the United States. He alleges that Sigmatech illegally billed CSC for work done on unfunded projects, causing CSC to submit false claims to the United States in violation of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1)(A). Mr. Temple also states a claim for retaliatory discharge under § 3730 of the False Claims Act, alleging that Sigmatech terminated his employment after he investigated and disclosed Sigmatech’s billing practices and the public health threat posed by Sigmatech’s electromagnetic environmental effects (E3) facility.

Sigmatech moves to dismiss Mr. Temple’s complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Sigmatech asserts that Mr. Temple’s False Claims Act (FCA) claim must fail because (1) Mr. Temple cannot establish that Sigmatech knowingly submitted false claims to the Government; (2) Mr. Temple does not state his claims with the particularity required by Rule 9(b); and (3) Mr. Temple cannot state a claim for conduct that pre-dates Congress’s May 20, 2009 amendments to the FCA. Sigmatech also argues that Mr. Temple’s retaliation claim should be dismissed to the extent that it relies on allegations connected to the E3 facility because Mr. Temple does not identify a potential false claim in connection with the E3 facility.

For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Sigmatech’s motion to dismiss Mr. Temple’s FCA claim. The Court grants Sigmatech’s motion to dismiss Mr. Temple’s retaliation claim to the extent that it relies on allegations concerning the E3 facility.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain, “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Generally, to survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss and meet the requirement of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), a complaint need not contain ‘detailed factual allegations, ’ but rather ‘only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Maledy v. City of Enterprise, 2012 WL 1028176, at *1 (M.D. Ala. Mar. 26, 2012) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

“In an action under the False Claims Act, Rule 8’s pleading standard is supplemented but not supplanted by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b).” Urquilla-Diaz v. Kaplan University, 2015 WL 1037084, at *9 (11th Cir. March 11, 2015). The relator “‘must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud’ but may allege scienter generally.” Id. (quoting Cooper v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield, 19 F.3d 562, 567–68 (11th Cir. 1994)). To satisfy this heightened pleading standard, “the complaint must set forth ‘facts as to time, place and substance of the defendant’s alleged fraud’ and ‘the details of the [defendant’s] allegedly fraudulent acts, when they occurred, and who engaged in them.” United States ex rel. Keeler v. Eisai, Inc., 568 Fed.Appx. 783, 793 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting United States ex rel. Clausen v. Lab. Corp. of Am., Inc., 290 F.3d 1301, 1309–10 (11th Cir. 2002)).

In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must view the allegations in a complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Watts v. Fla. Int’l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007). A court must accept well-pled facts as true. Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000).

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. The Parties

Sigmatech, Inc. is an Alabama corporation headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama. (Doc. 1, ¶ 25). Sigmatech provides systems engineering and technical assistance services to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) at the Spectrum Management Office at Redstone Arsenal. (Doc. 1, ¶ 29). Although Sigmatech provides services to the Army, Sigmatech does not contract directly with the Army. Instead, Sigmatech has a subcontract with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), an organization that contracts directly with the Army. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 34, 35).

CSC, a Nevada corporation with an office in Athens, Alabama, provides technology-enabled business solutions to government and private sector clients. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 30, 31, 33). The FCA claim in this matter pertains to Army Contract number W41P4Q-05-A-0028, [1] a blanket purchase agreement between the United States Army and CSC. (Doc. 1, ¶ 35). In a blanket purchase agreement, the value of the contract changes based on evolving tasks and delivery orders. (Doc. 1, ¶ 36). In April 2012, the value of the blanket purchase agreement between the Army and CSC was approximately $556 million. (Doc. 1, ¶ 36).

Mr. Temple began working for Sigmatech in February 2010 as a technical director in the Spectrum Management Office. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 16–17). Mr. Temple performed work for Sigmatech under Sigmatech’s subcontract with CSC. (Doc. 1, ¶ 34). Willie Albanes, from the Weapons Development and Integration Directorate (WDI), was the government lead for the Spectrum Management Office during Mr. Temple’s employment. (Doc. 1, ...


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