We previously posted on the U.S. Department of Justice’s motion for reconsideration of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama’s order bifurcating the element of falsity from scienter (and the other False Claims Act (FCA) elements) at trial in U.S. ex rel. Paradies v. Aseracare, Inc. Last Thursday, the court denied the motion for reconsideration. The court was unpersuaded by DOJ’s contention that bifurcation had never been done before in an FCA case. “Just because a trial technique has never been done does not preclude the court from using its discretion to do so.” The court also noted—perhaps turning DOJ’s “never been done before” argument against it—that “[t]he parties have not directed the court to any other False Claims Act trial involving a [M]edicare hospice benefit.”
With respect to DOJ’s arguments about juror confusion and duplicative evidence in the different phases of a bifurcated trial, the court rejected them, and reiterated its position that evidence of “general corporate practices” unrelated to actual, allegedly false claims would be inadmissible in the first trial phase.
While the court’s denial of the motion for reconsideration was not unexpected, it was undoubtedly the correct result, evidencing the court’s desire to ensure that DOJ properly establishes the element of falsity without unduly prejudicing the defendant with evidence irrelevant to the falsity question. After all and in the words of the court, “no FCA liability exists without a false claim.”