Rockwell International Corporation v. United States

127 S. Ct. 1397 (2007)

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Rockwell International Corporation v. United States

United States Supreme Court
127 S. Ct. 1397 (2007)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

Rockwell International Corporation (Rockwell) (plaintiff) operated the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant under a contract with the Department of Energy (government) (defendant). James Stone (defendant) was an engineer at Rocky Flats until March 1986. In 1982, Stone submitted an engineering report predicting that Rockwell’s plan to store toxic pond sludge by mixing it with concrete to form solid “pondcrete” blocks would fail because of issues with the sludge piping system. Rockwell initially successfully created solid pondcrete blocks; however, after altering the concrete-to-sludge ratio in October 1986, the pondcrete failed to properly solidify and leaked. Rockwell did not report the leaks to the government. In 1987, Stone gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) thousands of documents regarding environmental crimes at Rocky Flats, including Stone’s 1982 engineering report. In 1988, public media outlets reported that Rockwell’s pondcrete blocks were leaking toxic sludge. In June 1989, newspapers reported that the government’s recently executed search warrant for Rocky Flats contained allegations that Rockwell had submitted false statements regarding pondcrete storage in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Rockwell ultimately pleaded guilty to 10 environmental violations. In July 1989, Stone filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA), which the government joined, arguing Rockwell made false statements regarding its pondcrete storage in 1987 and 1988 to receive continued government funding. The district court awarded damages. Rockwell filed a post-verdict motion to dismiss, arguing the district court lacked jurisdiction over Stone’s FCA action because it was based on publicly-available allegations and Stone was not an original source. The Tenth Circuit held that Stone’s 1982 engineering report proved Stone was an original source. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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