Case Type:
Case Status:
17-30982 (5th Circuit, Dec 05,2018) Published
Judicial estoppel precluded debtor from pursuing (on behalf of the United States) False Claims Act retaliatory claims against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, even though the action arose after the debtor filed his chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. Court held that debtor had a continuing obligation to disclose the lawsuit as an asset, which the debtor failed to do prior to obtaining a discharge from the bankruptcy court. All elements of judicial estoppel were present.
Procedural context:
Appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which dismissed debtor's FCA claim under Rule 12(c), concluding that judicial estoppel barred further prosecution of debtor's FCA retaliation claims against his former employer.
Debtor filed chapter 13 case in 2008 and obtained confirmation of his chapter 13 plan shortly thereafter. While making payments under the plan, but before obtaining a chapter 13 discharge, the debtor was employed by United States Marine Corps as an instructor for a local high school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps. During his tenure as an JROTC instructor, he noticed other instructors making false reimbursement claims and attempted to report the behavior to the school principal. In return for his reporting, the debtor was transferred to a different high school--a move which the debtor considered retaliatory. In 21012 (before obtaining a discharge from the bankruptcy court), debtor filed this FCA qui tam action and retaliatory claim. The School Board moved to dismiss the claims under Rule 12(c), arguing that the debtor's failure to disclose the action during the course of his bankruptcy case warranted judicial estoppel. The District Court agreed, and dismissed the action under Reed v. City of Arlington, 650 F.3d 571, 574 (5th Cir. 2011). The debtor (on behalf of the United States) appealed.
Stewart, King, Owen

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