The Fourth Circuit, in United States ex rel. Sheldon v. Allergan Sales, LLC, No. 20-2330, 2022 WL 211172 (4th Cir. Jan. 25, 2022) recently upheld the dismissal of False Claims Act (“FCA”) lawsuit brought by a quit tam relator (“Relator”) against his employer, Forest Laboratories, LLC (“Forest”) alleging that Forest engaged in a fraudulent price reporting scheme under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Statute (“Rebate Statute”).
Notably, the Fourth Circuit adopted the US Supreme Court’s decision in Safeco Ins. Co. of Am. v. Burr, 551 U.S. 47 (2007) in holding that the scienter element of the FCA is subject to an “objective reasonableness” standard, where a defendant can defeat FCA liability by establishing that its interpretation of the applicable statute or regulation was objectively reasonable and that no authoritative guidance from a court or agency could have “warned defendant away” from that interpretation. Just last year, the Seventh Circuit adopted this standard in U.S. ex rel. Schutte v. SuperValu Inc., joining the Third, Eighth, Ninth, and DC Circuits in holding the same.
At issue in Sheldon was the reasonableness of Forest’s interpretation of the Rebate Statute in determining how it calculated certain discounts given to separate customers for purpose of reporting its “best price” to the government. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the basis that Forest’s reading of the Rebate Statute was “objectively reasonable,” there was no authoritative guidance to the contrary, and thus Forest did not act “knowingly” under the FCA. The Fourth Circuit affirmed.
Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Adopts Objective Reasonableness Standard in Determining Scienter Element of the False Claims Act