The case stems from a toxic-tort claim against Monsanto Company alleging harms flowing from the use of PCBs. A global, nationally publicized, settlement was reached in the amount of $300 Million in 2003 involving more than 20,500 people. More than 14 years after the settlement CMS initiated a recovery action under the MSP.
"Because the MSPA is silent as to a deadline for filing a claim for recovery, the parties agree
that the relevant statute of limitations for the Government’s claims, if any, is governed by the Federal Claims Collection Act (“FCCA”). 28 U.S.C. § 2415 (2008); see also In re Dow Corning, 250 B.R. 298, 350-51 (Bktrpcy. E.D. Mich. 2000) (stating the universal recognition of FCCA’s applicability to the Government’s MSPA claims). The parties disagree, however, as to whether the FCAA’s six year or three-year statute of limitations applies."
The Court rejected the Government's "implied-at-law contract theory as applicable to the Corporate Defendants," because "it stretches too far beyond the bounds of logic and reason to adopt absent precedent." The Court held that the claim was based in tort and applied a 3 year statute of limitations and determined that Government had filed its claim against the Corporate Defendants "too late."
As to the Attorney Defendants, the Court held was based on contract law.
"Logic suggests that the Attorney Defendants who represented the tort plaintiffs in the
Abernathy case, the alleged Medicare beneficiaries in the instant case, essentially acted as agents pursuant to the contractual relationship between the Government and the Medicare beneficiaries. More specifically, the Attorney Defendants’ obligation to pay their clients any monies allegedly owed to the Government for Medicare reimbursement, unlike that of the Corporate Defendants, arose not from any tortious conduct on behalf of the Attorney Defendants themselves but from an express contractual relationship with the Medicare beneficiaries—namely, any fee agreement or attorney client agreement between them. From that perspective, the Attorney Defendants’ MSPA obligation is essentially founded upon a contractual obligation."
"For these reasons, the grounds for statute of limitations determination as applied to the
Attorney Defendants is more reasonably founded upon contract rather than tort. The contractual nexus is clearer in this instance than as alleged against the Corporate Defendants, whose MSPA obligations ultimately arose from, and cannot be divorced from, allegations of tortious conduct. The court, therefore, concurs that the six-year statute of limitations applies as to the Attorney Defendants."
The accural of the Government's MSP action was held to be different for the two groups of defendants. As to the Corporate Defendants the action arise no later than the point of execution and court approval of the settlement. As to the Attorney Defendants the cause of action arose when payment was made.
The Court noted the the Government could have intervened in the underlying action but chose not to do so. Perhaps the Government will now seek to intervene in all underlying claims. Additionally the Court rejected a statute tolling argument based a fraudulent concealment.
United States of America v James J. Stricker, et al., CV 09-BE-2423-E (USDCT ND Alabama) Filed September 30, 2010 3:59pm.
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CMS/MSP Statute Tolling Case Set for Hearing by Federal Court