LOCATION: United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare: Social Security Division
DOCKET NO.: 74-712
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
CITATION: 423 US 303 (1976)
ARGUED: Oct 08, 1975
DECIDED: Jan 14, 1976
Keith A. Jones -
Jack Ballan - for respondent Philip L
William Rossmoore - for respondent Gerald Page
Facts of the case
Media for United States v. BornsteinAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 08, 1975 in United States v. Bornstein
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 14, 1976 in United States v. Bornstein
Warren E. Burger:
The judgment and opinion of the Court in number 74-712 of United States against Bornstein will be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.
Yes, I have been authorized to announce the opinion and judgment of the court in this case.
A case in which Mr. justice Stevens took no part whatsoever.
A case which is here on writ of certiorari to United States Court of Appeals for the Third circuit.
The False Claims Act, Federal Act provide that the United States may recover from a person [(00:36) - (00:45)audio corrupt] double the amount of damages that the United States has sustained by reason of the false claim.
This case presents two interpretative problems that arise when the United States sues a subcontractor under the Act on the ground that the subcontractor has caused the prime contractor to present false claims.
The questions are first, how should the number of $2,000 forfeitures be counted in such a situation?
And Second, when the United States has already recovered damages from the prime contractor because of the subcontractor's fraud, what effect does that recovery have upon the Government's right to recover double damages from the subcontractor?
These problems of statutory construction do not lend themselves to a very interesting or even a very intelligible, oral summary.
In that respect, this case is akin to the one announced yesterday by my brother Powell.
Suffice it to say that the Court holds today that in determining the number of $2000 forfeitures, the statute requires that the focus must be upon the specific conduct of the person from whom the government is trying to collect the forfeitures.
In this case upon the acts of the subcontractor, not the acts of the prime contractor and that in computing the double damages authorized by the statute.
The government's actual damages are to be doubled before any deductions are made for compensatory payments, the government may have previously received from any source.
Application of these principles in the present case, leads to reversal of the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
I am authorized to say that Mr. Justice Rehnquist has filed a separate opinion dissenting in part in which the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice White have joined and as I said I think at the outset Mr. Justice Stevens took no part in the consideration or the decision of this case.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you Mr. Justice Stewart.