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Halldorson v. The Sandi Group

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 29, 2013

ANDREW HALLDORSON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE SANDI GROUP and RUBAR S. SANDI, Defendants

Page 148

For ANDREW HALLDORSON, Plaintiff: Carla Denette Brown, LEAD ATTORNEY, CHARLSON BREDEHOFT COHEN BROWN & SAKATA, P.C., Reston, VA; Jesselyn Alicia Radack, LEAD ATTORNEY, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT, Washington, DC.

For SANDI GROUP, RUBAR S. SANDI, Defendants: David Barger, LEAD ATTORNEY, GREENBERG TRAURIG, LLP, McLean, VA.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Intervenor: Laurie J. Weinstein, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

For SANDI GROUP, Counter Claimant: David Barger, LEAD ATTORNEY, GREENBERG TRAURIG, LLP, McLean, VA.

For ANDREW HALLDORSON, Counter Defendant: Jesselyn Alicia Radack, LEAD ATTORNEY, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT, Washington, DC.

OPINION

Page 149

Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case is before the Court on defendant The Sandi Group's Motion to Dismiss Counts III and IV of the Third Amended Complaint and defendant Rubar S. Sandi's Motion to Dismiss Counts II, III, and IV of the Third Amended Complaint. Upon consideration of the motions, the responses and replies thereto, the applicable law, the entire record, and for the reasons explained below, defendants' motions will be GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Andrew Halldorson brought this case originally as a qui tam action on behalf of the United States under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, et seq. [1] Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that defendants submitted false claims to the United States in connection with certain contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. On March 16, 2011, the United States filed a notice of intervention, stating that it would intervene for the limited purpose of settlement and to file a stipulation of dismissal. ECF No. 39.

In the Amended Complaint, which was the operative complaint at the time the settlement was reached, Halldorson alleged two retaliation claims. ECF No. 37. Specifically, in Count III, titled " False Claims Retaliation," Halldorson alleged that he " was an employee who was discharged, suspended, threatened, harassed, and in other manners discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment by his employer because of lawful acts done by the employee on behalf of the employee or others in furtherance of a False Claims Act action under this section." Amend. Compl. ¶ 59. In Count IV of the Amended Complaint, titled " State Law Retaliation," Halldorson alleged that he " threatened to disclose, to a supervisor or to a public body, an activity, policy or practice of the Defendant that was in violation of law, rule, or regulation. This violation created and presented a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety." Amend. Compl. ¶ 61. He further alleged that he " provided information to a public body conducting an inquiry into this violation" and that he " objected to and refused to participate in, this violation." Amend. Compl. ¶ ¶ 62-63.

On April 18, 2011, the parties filed a joint stipulation of dismissal (" Stipulation" ). ECF No. 42. The Stipulation stated that the parties had entered into a settlement agreement effective April 5, 2011 (" Settlement Agreement" ) that resolved nearly all of the claims set forth in the relators' Amended Complaint. The Stipulation further stated that the Amended Complaint would be dismissed with prejudice to the Relators, except that " Relators' claims for reasonable attorneys' fees, expenses and costs pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(d) are not dismissed." The Stipulation also stated that " Halldorson's claims for retaliation under state and federal law against TSG Group [defined in the Stipulation as The Sandi Group, Dr. Rubar S. Sandi, and Corporate Bank Financial

Page 150

Services], including claims pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h), are not dismissed."

The Settlement Agreement was not filed on the docket in this case, though it was referenced in the Stipulation of Dismissal and plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (TAC ¶ 59), and was attached to The Sandi Group's motion to dismiss. In the Settlement Agreement, Halldorson released TSG Group (defined as all defendants at the time: Corporate Bank Financial Services, Inc., Dr. Rubar S. Sandi, and The Sandi Group)

from any civil monetary claim [Halldorson] may have on behalf of [himself] or of the United States that was alleged or could have been alleged in the Civil Action, or that is in any way related to the subject matter of the Civil Action, including but not limited to claims under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § § 3729-3732, or the common law theories of recovery, except for claims for attorneys' fees, expenses and costs pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(d), and claims for retaliation under state and federal law, including claims pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h).

Settlement Agreement, ECF No. 76-2, at ¶ 6.

Following settlement, plaintiff Halldorson filed an unopposed motion for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, which the Court granted. ECF Nos. 50-51. In the motion for leave to amend, Halldorson stated that the proposed amendment " eliminate[d] a state law retaliation claim (leaving only the statutory claim for retaliation under FCA Section 3730(h)); [and] eliminate[d] Dr. Rubar Sandi as a Defendant. . . ." ECF No. 50 at 1. In arguing that amendment was in the interests of justice, Halldorson contended that amendment would " expedite and streamline further proceedings by narrowing the action to the pending Section 3730(h) claim and particularizing the allegations that pertain to the sole remaining claim." Id. at 2. In the Second Amended Complaint (" SAC" ), Halldorson alleged one count of False Claims Act retaliation, pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h), against defendant The Sandi Group. See SAC ¶ ¶ 45-46. No other claims were alleged and no other parties were named as defendants in the Second Amended Complaint.

After the Second Amended Complaint was filed, plaintiff and the sole remaining defendant The Sandi Group engaged in mediation. Following mediation, Halldorson obtained new counsel and filed a motion for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint (" Third Amended Complaint" or " TAC" ). ECF No. 70. The Court granted leave to amend over objection on March 16, 2012. The Third Amended Complaint includes the FCA retaliation claim under Section 3730(h) that was included in the Second Amended Complaint. See TAC, Count I. The Third Amended Complaint also includes several new claims and purports to bring Dr. Sandi back into the litigation. Count II, alleged against Dr. Sandi, seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Dr. Sandi's alleged tortious interference with Halldorson's business expectancies. See TAC, Count II. Count III alleges fraudulent misrepresentation against The Sandi Group and Dr. Sandi and seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Se ...


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