The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAND
Plaintiff United States of America (hereinafter, the "Government") brings this action against Frank Carpentieri (also "Defendant") under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729, et seq., and federal common law. The Government alleges that Mr. Carpentieri made, and caused to be made, false statements regarding his medical history in his application for employment to the United States Postal Service, and in his subsequent applications for disability benefits. Presently before the Court is the Government's Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Also before the Court is Mr. Carpentieri's Cross-Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (a) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); and (b) on the theory that § 8128(b) of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (hereinafter, "FECA"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 8101 et seq., prohibits this Court from hearing the instant action.
For the reasons explained below, we (a) deny the Defendant's 12(b)(1) cross-motion as to the Government's two claims under the False Claims Act and reserve as to the remaining three claims under federal common law; (b) deny Defendant's 12(b)(6) cross-motion; (c) ask the parties for supplemental briefs on the question of injury and damages; and (d) postpone consideration of the Government's summary judgment motion until the Court receives the requested briefs.
The facts set forth below are based on the Government's 56.1 statement. These facts are "undisputed" as Defendant failed to contest the Government's statement. (See Local Rule 56.1(c).)
On June 1, 1988, Mr. Carpentieri applied for a position as a postal carrier with the United States Postal Service (hereinafter, "USPS"). In that regard, Mr. Carpentieri completed a PS Form 2485 in which he certified as true that: (1) he had never been refused employment or been unable to hold a job because of an inability to perform certain motions, to assume certain positions or for other medical reasons; (2) he had never required special or restricted job assignments due to illness, injury or physical impairments; (3) he had never been treated for other than minor medical conditions; (4) he had never received compensation or a case settlement from an employer or insurance company due to an injury; (5) he had never received an x-ray, or an other special examination; and (6) he had never had a back injury.
Despite his statements to the contrary, Mr. Carpentieri had been involved in a motor vehicle accident on December 9, 1986, for which he received medical care, including an x-ray and at least one Magnetic Resonance Imaging examination. This accident resulted in a back injury which rendered Mr. Carpentieri "totally disabled" for a period of time. Indeed, a doctor certified that he was unable to work from February 3, 1987, until at least July 8, 1988. Furthermore, Defendant received lost wage benefits from Allstate Insurance as a result of the 1986 accident.
Based upon Defendant's statements in his PS Form 2485, the USPS determined that Mr. Carpentieri was qualified for the physically demanding position of postal carrier, and offered him a position. Mr. Carpentieri accepted the job. The Government asserts, and the Defendant does not dispute, that the USPS would not have found the Defendant physically qualified for the position had it been aware of the 1986 accident and subsequent disability.
On August 24, 1988, a few months after he began his new job, Mr. Carpentieri reported that he had been involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving a USPS vehicle. On August 25, 1988, Defendant submitted an application for benefits under FECA to the Department of Labor (hereinafter, "DOL"). During his treatment and evaluation by doctors for the 1988 accident, Defendant knowingly made false statements to his physicians concerning his medical history and earlier back injury. As a result, Defendant caused false physician reports that omitted his prior injury to be submitted to the DOL in support of his application for benefits. Pursuant to his application, Defendant had, as of January 15, 1998, received 127 checks totaling $ 145,704.45 and medical benefits worth $ 33,333.12 from the Government.
Where a court is presented with several matters including one related to subject matter jurisdiction, the court shall first address the jurisdiction issue. See Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682, 90 L. Ed. 939, 66 S. Ct. 773 (1946); Rhulen Agency, Inc. v. Alabama Ins. Guar. Ass'n, 896 F.2d 674, 678 (2d Cir. 1990). Here, Defendant asserts that 5 U.S.C. § 8128(b) prohibits this Court from hearing the instant action. The Government, on the other hand, claims that § 8128(b) does not preempt the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733, or the Government's right to recover fraudulently obtained funds under federal common law principles.
Defendant's jurisdictional argument centers around FECA's preclusion-of-review provision codified in 5 U.S.C. § 8128(b). This section provides that the Secretary of Labor's determination of a claimant's eligibility for FECA benefits is final. More specifically, the provision reads as follows:
The action of the Secretary or his designee in allowing or denying a payment under ...