United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ex rel., DENISE MARY PRITCHARD, Plaintiff,
ROCKWELL COLLINS SIMULATION AND TRAINING SOLUTIONS, LLC, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a False Claims Act case. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 15, relator Denise Mary Pritchard has asked the
Court for leave to file a second amended complaint. (Doc.
63). For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Ms.
first amended complaint, relator Denise Mary Pritchard
alleged that the defendant, Rockwell Collins Simulation and
Training Solutions LLC (RCSTS), engaged in a series of
fraudulent schemes that caused the United States government
to award production contracts to RCSTS that the government
otherwise would have awarded to one or more eligible small
businesses. (See generally Doc. 30). During a
telephone conference held on March 29, 2016, the Court
dismissed Ms. Pritchard's first amended complaint
pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and
9(b). (Doc. 53). The Court invited the parties to submit
arguments regarding whether the dismissal should be with or
without prejudice. (Doc. 53).
Pritchard now asks the Court for leave to file a second
amended complaint. (Doc. 63). Ms. Pritchard contends that her
proposed second amended complaint cures the pleading
deficiencies of her first amended complaint. (Doc. 63). RCSTS
argues that Ms. Pritchard's proposed second amended
complaint still fails to state a plausible claim for fraud
with the particularity required by Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 9(b). (Doc. 65, p. 7).
addition to satisfying the plausibility standard of Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a plaintiff asserting a
claim under the False Claims Act (FCA) must “state with
particularity the circumstances constituting fraud.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b); see Urquilla-Diaz v. Kaplan
Univ., 780 F.3d 1039, 1051 (11th Cir. 2015). The purpose
of this heightened pleading requirement is, as RCSTS
explains, “to inform a defendant as to the precise
misconduct charged, so the defendant has a fair opportunity
to mount a defense.” (Doc. 65, p. 7) (citing United
States ex rel. Atkins v. McInteer, 470 F.3d 1350, 1359
(11th Cir. 2006)); see also Zarrella v. Pac. Life Ins.
Co., 809 F.Supp.2d 1357, 1366 (S.D. Fla. 2011)
(explaining that Rule 9(b) exists, in part, “to give
the defendant fair notice of the claims brought against
it”). A plaintiff may satisfy Rule 9(b) by alleging
“date, time or place[, ] but alternative means are also
available to satisfy the rule.” Durham v. Bus.
Mgmt. Assocs., 847 F.2d 1505, 1512 (11th Cir. 1988).
proposed second amended complaint, Ms. Pritchard identifies
seven contracts that the government awarded to RCSTS between
2006 and 2010 for research and development related to
Transportable Blackhawk Operations Simulators (TBOS). (Doc.
63-1, pp. 6-8). Ms. Pritchard alleges that “the purpose
of the TBOS R&D contracts was to provide the [government]
with everything needed, including software and technical
data, to acquire production units through a competitive bid
process.” (Doc. 63-1, ¶ 9). Despite the
understanding within the government and RCSTS that
“everything about TBOS intellectual property was to be
non-proprietary, ” Ms. Pritchard alleges that RCSTS
included proprietary software on the TBOS prototypes that the
company provided the government under the contracts. (Doc.
63-1, ¶¶ 12, 20-31). According to Ms. Pritchard,
RCSTS directed one of its managers “not to
disclose” the presence of the proprietary software,
“even if asked by government employees.” (Doc.
63-1, ¶ 30). With respect to the proprietary software,
Ms. Pritchard alleges that the government had “a full
government-purpose-rights license . . . by operation of
law.” (Doc. 63-1, ¶¶ 35, 53).
Pritchard alleges that, after RCSTS performed the seven
R&D contracts, the government began the process of
soliciting bids for TBOS production, in accordance with the
government's multi-phase “TBOS acquisition
strategy.” (Doc. 63-1, ¶¶ 10, 12, 38). During
this process, according to Ms. Pritchard, United States Army
contracting officer Richard King and RCSTS employee Chris
Gloe falsely represented to the government that the
government lacked the “complete technical data
package” necessary to solicit competitive bids for the
production of TBOSes. (Doc. 63-1, ¶¶ 68, 71, 72).
As a result, Ms. Pritchard alleges, the government awarded
production contracts to RCSTS that the government otherwise
would have awarded to one or more small businesses and
ultimately abandoned the TBOS project altogether. (Doc. 63-1,
¶¶ 80-82, 153).
allegations are sufficient to place RCSTS on notice of the
precise misconduct with which it has been charged and to give
RCSTS “a fair opportunity to mount a defense.”
Atkins, 470 F.3d at 1359. Whether the R&D
contracts in fact granted the government rights to
“everything needed . . . to acquire production units
through a competitive bid process, ” whether Mr. King
and Mr. Gloe made false representations to the government
concerning the government's ability to offer TBOS
production contracts to businesses other than RCSTS, and
whether the government awarded production contracts to RCSTS
as a result of Mr. King and Mr. Gloe's alleged false
representations are questions of fact to be resolved at a
later stage of the litigation.
the Court GRANTS Ms. Pritchard's motion for leave to file
a second amended complaint (Doc. 63) and finds that Ms.
Pritchard's proposed second amended complaint (Doc. 63-1)
states a plausible and sufficiently particular claim for
relief under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8, 9(b), and
12(b)(6). The Court DIRECTS Ms. Pritchard to file
her proposed second amended complaint as her second amended