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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Public Disclosures Don't Bar Halliburton FCA Suit, Court Says

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The False Claims Act’s public disclosure bar does not prevent a water purification specialist's lawsuit accusing Halliburton Co and KBR Inc of violating contractual duties to test and purify lavatory and drinking water used by U.S. troops in Iraq, a federal court in Virginia ruled on Thursday.

The FCA’s public disclosure bar jurisdictionally bans claims based on matters that were publicly disclosed unless the relator was the original source of the allegations. Although the court ruled that the companies did make public disclosures about the information at-issue, it determined that it was more likely than not that whistleblower Benjamin Carter did not base his claims on that information.

“Carter has shown that he had independent knowledge of the facts underlying his claim and that he derived his allegations from his own independent knowledge,” the court wrote.

Carter, a former reverse osmosis water purification unit operator, has long been locked in a legal battle against Halliburton and KBR affiliate Kellogg Brown & Root Services Inc. over claims they billed the government for water purification work they never did at U.S. bases in Al Asad and Ar Ramadi, Iraq.

Halliburton had argued that Carter got his information from prior allegations brought against the oil company, but the district court ruled that Carter based his claims on first-hand experiences.
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