Helmer, Martins, Rice & Popham Co., L.P.A. has prosecuted qui tam cases longer than any law firm in America. Our complex litigation practice concentrates on representation of whistleblowers in cases under the False Claims Act. Our book, False Claims Act: Whistleblower Litigation, is the first and only book written specifically to help whistleblowers and their attorneys successfully leap the many procedural hurdles of the False Claims Act. We frequently are consulted by attorneys throughout the country regarding False Claims Act cases, and sometimes join with them to help present their clients' cases.
Since 1984, we have lectured, authored treatises and articles, litigated, and lobbied for the rights of whistleblowers who come forward to protect the public treasury. We have represented whistleblowers in dozens of qui tam False Claims Act cases. In some of our cases the United States Government has not intervened, but we have nonetheless pursued the defendants on behalf of our clients and the United States, settling many and seeing others through to jury verdict. False Claims Act cases in which we have represented whistleblowers have led to the return of more than $700,000,000 to the United States Treasury, with proportional amounts to our clients.
We filed a case on behalf of Brett Roby, a quality assurance engineer, against The Boeing Company concerning defective Chinook CH-47d helicopter transmission gears. That case was settled for $65,000,000 in 1999, and in September 2002, the federal court of appeals in Cincinnati affirmed the principle, never before established in a False Claims Act case, that a manufacturer can be liable for the entire value of an aircraft which crashes as the result of a defective part. Mr. Roby was awarded $10,000,000 as a result of the settlement.
Also in September 2002, we and the United States settled for $6,200,000 a case brought in 1997 on behalf of Rudy Anderson, also a quality assurance engineer, against General Electric and Lockheed Martin for placing defective flight computer components in F/A 18 "Hornet" aircraft. The F/A 18 is the Navy's workhorse jet fighter, and the defective components posed a risk that the aircraft would turn sharply on takeoff, causing a loss of pilot control.
Later, in 2002, we resolved another qui tam action against Lockheed Martin concerning mis-charging on a F 15E "Strike Eagle" computer simulator program for $1.4 million.
In 2003 one of our False Claims Act cases was partially resolved in a $680 million settlement reached with the Columbia HCA Corporation.
More recently, two of our False Claims Act cases were resolved in 2006 through multi-million settlements. The first involved defective valves used by major shipbuilder-contractors General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman in building nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers for the United States Navy. These defective valves were also used by Lockheed Martin in gaseous infusion plants operated for the United States Department of Energy. The successful prosecution of this case resulted in a $13.2 million payment to the United States as well as criminal convictions of two employees of Hunt Valve Company---the small Ohio-based company who manufactured the defective valves used by General Dynamics, Northrop and Lockheed, and whose deficient quality control system was allowed to thrive for years because General Dynamics, Northrop and Lockheed failed to oversee Hunt Valve’s operations and ensure the integrity of the valves.
In our second 2006 settlement, General Electric Company agreed to pay $11.5 million to resolve allegations that it sold defective jet engines to the United States Armed Forces. Specifically, General Electric Aircraft Engine’s Turbine Airfoil plant in Madisonville, Kentucky produced critical jet engine components that had the potential of causing catastrophic losses of the engine and the associated aircraft, including the President’s aircraft Air Force One and Marine One.
In addition to our False Claims Act work, we represent clients in other kinds of complex litigation, including in the areas of franchise rights, employment rights, civil rights, and environmental law. Highlights for 2002 include completing a $22,000,000 environmental class action settlement against Georgia Pacific Corporation on behalf of a disadvantaged Columbus, Ohio neighborhood for damages resulting from a 1998 chemical factory explosion. We were also successful in preventing a major independent Pepsi Cola bottler from being terminated as a franchisee by the PepsiCo Corporation, as well as convincing a Cincinnati federal judge to award in excess of $3.5 million to a worker injured on an Ohio River towboat.
In 2004, in a rare summary judgment in a civil rights case, a federal court found the City of Cincinnati, the Village of Golf Manor, both of their Chiefs of Police, and against five of their individual police officers liable for violating constitutional rights leading to the death of a Cincinnati citizen. After losing their appeals of that decision, Cincinnati and Golf Manor settled the case for a total of $7.5 million. The $6.5 million payment by Cincinnati in 2006 was over four times larger than the previous record payment by the City for claims of civil rights violations by one individual.