Fifth Circuit Embraces Our Arguments and Reverses the Largest Ever Qui Tam Verdict.

On September 29, 2017, the Fifth Circuit unanimously reversed and rendered a $663 million judgment – reportedly the largest ever in a False Claims Act case – against Trinity Industries. United States ex rel. Harman v. Trinity Indus. Inc., 872 F.3d 645 (5th Cir. 2017). In this lawsuit, tried in the Eastern District of Texas, legal arguments developed by Roach & Newton and presented by our lawyers and co-counsel at trial and in an extraordinary mandamus petition were ultimately embraced and accepted by the Fifth Circuit.

Before trial, Roach Newton’s founder, Randy Roach, and partner, Manuel López, led a team of appellate lawyers in preparing a mandamus petition asking the Fifth Circuit to stop the trial. The mandamus petition focused on the federal government’s continuous approval of the product at issue, asserting that “it is illogical for Trinity to be subject to [False Claims Act] liability when the federal agency charged by Congress to decide whether products … are eligible for reimbursement has examined [the] allegations and rejected them.” The Fifth Circuit denied the mandamus petition but issued a rare written opinion that effectively admonished the District Court and the parties about the importance of the federal government’s “authoritative” rejection of the underlying fraud allegations.

At trial, Roach Newton led the effort to prepare the case for the eventual appeal. Roach Newton’s efforts culminated in the filing of Trinity’s Rule 50(b) Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, which can be viewed in its entirety here. While the Motion was wide ranging and exposed countless defects with plaintiff’s case, the Motion primarily stressed that the federal agency’s “investigation and decision should end this case as a matter of law.”

In reversing and rendering judgment in favor of Trinity, the Fifth Circuit zeroed in on the same issues highlighted at trial by Roach Newton, concluding that “Congress enacted the [False Claims Act] to vindicate fraud on the federal government, not second guess decisions made by those empowered through the democratic process to shape public policy.” Trinity, 872 F.3d at 668-69.

The Fifth Circuit quoted its pre-trial mandamus opinion at length, explaining how that opinion constituted “a caution from this court that the case ought not proceed.” Id. at 647. Ultimately, the Fifth Circuit reversed the judgment by holding that the District Court should have granted Trinity’s Rule 50(b) Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. Trinity, 872 F.3d at 652. A copy of the Fifth Circuit’s decision can be viewed here.