Lee v. Corinthian Colleges

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-12-2011
  • Case #: 10-55037
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge B. Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judge N.R. Smith and Senior District Judge R. Brewster
  • Full Text Opinion

Reliance on a safe harbor provision is not sufficient to negate the requisite scienter of the Federal False Claims Act.

Nyoka Lee brought action on behalf of the United States against Corinthian Colleges and other individual defendants alleging that the defendants falsely certified compliance with a partnership agreement in order to obtain Title IV funding. Each defendant filed a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The district court granted the motions, and based upon its interpretation of the statute, refused to allow plaintiffs leave to amend the complaint. Plaintiffs timely appealed and Corinthian argued that any policy the college had fell under the “safe harbor” provision of the Department of Education (“DOE”), and in the alternative, that there was not sufficient scienter for a False Claims Act claim due to the fact that the policy was modeled upon an interpretation of the “safe harbor provision.” The Ninth Circuit held that while the complaint did not meet the specificity for filing a claim of fraud, there was no reason to deny amendment of the complaint, as the allegations could not be found futile. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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