EDVA dismisses False Claims Act retaliation claim brought by terminated Iraq security contractor employee

by Ben Vernia | June 14th, 2010

In a June 2nd order, Eastern District of Virginia Judge James Cacheris granted a 12(b)(6) motion by Triple Canopy, Inc., a private security company providing protection to U.S. diplomats in Baghdad, in a suit alleging (among other things) unlawful retaliation under § 3730 of the False Claims Act.

Matthew Twigg, a deputy program manager for Triple Canopy, brought the suit against Triple Canopy after he was fired for what Triple Canopy termed “poor judgment, favoritism and personal bias” during an investigation of unauthorized alcohol consumption. Triple Canopy originally hired Twigg at the direction of the U.S. government, as he was an employee of the previous security contractor in Baghdad.

Judge Cacheris held that to state a claim of retaliation under the False Claims Act, Twigg must offer facts sufficient to show:

  1. that the plaintiff engaged in protected activity under the FCA;
  2. that the employer knew of the protected activity; and
  3. that the employer retaliated against the plaintiff as a result of those acts.

Although Twigg did allege that he was cooperating with the government in an FCA investigation, Judge Cacheris found that Twigg had not provided “sufficient factual allegations regarding the second and third prongs,” and that “[Twigg’s] allegations are not sufficient to properly state a cause of action for retaliation under 31 U.S.C. §3730.”

As a result, Judge Cacheris granted Triple Canopy’s motion to dismiss (dismissing other counts in the complaint on separate grounds.) However, since Judge Cacheris did not specifically dismiss the suit with prejudice, Twigg will be free to timely amend his complaint to comply with Rule 12(b)(6).

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