Taul v. Nagel Enterprises, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 15 MOTION to Dismiss filed by Nagel Enterprises, Inc., Jed Nagel. The Court will enter a separate Scheduling Order reflecting its determinations on deadlines for the referenced Discovery and Hearing. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 9/17/2014. (JLC)
2014 Sep-17 PM 12:39
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
) Case No.: 2:14-CV-0061-VEH
NAGLE ENTERPRISES, INC., et al, )
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This case involves a qui tam action filed by the plaintiff-relator (Mr. Taul) under
the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733. Mr. Taul claims that the defendants
(“the Nagels”), who owned and maintained a mortuary and crematory, conspired to
defraud the federal government with a fabricated tissue recovery and kickback scheme
they had allegedly concocted with a local organ donor center. The Nagels have filed
the present Motion to Dismiss Mr. Taul’s action under Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 9(b), 12(b)(1), and 12(b)(6). The Nagels variously argue that this court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction over the action, that Mr. Taul’s Complaint does not describe
fraud with the requisite particularity, and that, more generally, the Complaint does not
allege facts upon which relief may be granted.
The Nagels’ jurisdictional arguments directly implicate this court’s ability to hear
the case. The court must therefore address them first. The court finds that the Nagels
are essentially mounting a factual attack on the court’s subject matter jurisdiction. As
disposing of this motion would necessarily entail the resolution of disputed facts, the
court further concludes that Mr. Taul is entitled to discovery and a hearing on the issue
before the court rules on it. Moreover, because the issue’s resolution may itself
foreclose Mr. Taul’s action altogether, the court cannot address the Nagels’ other
arguments for dismissal at this juncture. For these reasons, the court will DENY their
Motion to Dismiss.
The False Claims Act “eliminates federal court jurisdiction over actions under
§ 3730 of the Act that are based upon the public disclosure of allegations or
transactions unless the action is brought by the Attorney General or the person bringing
the action is an original source of the information.” Rockwell Int’l Corp. v. United
States, 549 U.S. 457, 460 (2007). The Nagels cite this jurisdictional bar in urging the
court to dismiss this case. Doc. 15 ¶ 7. There are two recognized avenues of attacking
subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1): the first is “facial,” and the second is
“factual.” The Eleventh Circuit has explained the distinction between these methods
in the following manner:
A facial attack on the complaint requires the court merely to look and see if the
plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction, and the
allegations in his complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the motion.
Factual attacks, on the other hand, challenge the existence of subject matter
jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleadings, and matters outside the
pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits are considered.
McElmurray v. Consol. Gov’t of Augusta-Richmond City, 501 F.3d 1244, 1250-51
(11th Cir. 2007) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). In sum, a district
court may dismiss an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1)
on any of three bases:
the complaint alone;
the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record;
the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court’s
resolution of disputed facts.
Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 412 (5th Cir. 1981).1 In the latter case – that is,
where a district court must make “factual determinations decisive of a motion to
dismiss for lack of jurisdiction” – the court “must give the plaintiff an opportunity for
discovery and for a hearing that is appropriate to the nature of the motion to dismiss.”
This authority is controlling in the Eleventh Circuit. See Bonner v. City of Prichard, Ala.,
661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (holding that decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed
down prior to the close of business on September 30, 1981, are binding in the Eleventh Circuit).
Id. at 414 (emphasis added); accord McElmurray, 501 F.3d at 1251 (citing Williamson
in concluding that discovery was not necessary because the district court rightly treated
the motion to dismiss as a facial jurisdictional attack and therefore only considered the
complaint with its attached exhibits); U.S. ex rel. Saldivar v. Fresenius Med. Care
Holdings, Inc., 906 F. Supp. 2d 1264, 1268-69 (N.D. Ga. 2012) (“To compensate for
this broader scope of review, the former Fifth Circuit established that in a factual
challenge, the Court must give the plaintiff an opportunity for discovery and for an
appropriate hearing.”) (citing Williamson, 645 F.2d at 414; McElmurray, 501 F.3d at
1251); see also Eaton v. Dorchester Dev., Inc., 692 F.2d 727, 731 (11th Cir. 1982)
(“[T]he rules entitle a plaintiff to elicit material through discovery before a claim may
be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.”) (quoting Blanco v. Carigulf Lines, 632 F.2d
656, 658 (5th Cir. 1980)).
This situation presents itself here. Again, the False Claims Act bars jurisdiction
over qui tam actions based on publicly-disclosed information unless the relator
constitutes an original source of that information. The Act further defines an “original
source” as “an individual who has direct and independent knowledge of the information
on which the allegations are based and has voluntarily provided the information to the
Government before filing an action under this section which is based on the
information.” 31 U.S.C. § (e)(4)(B). In their Motion, the Nagels claim to be making
both a facial and factual attack on Mr. Taul’s claimed identity as an original source.
The Nagels state, “Defendants make a facial attack on the complaint, the allegations
of which clearly show that [Mr. Taul] does not meet the criteria of a person with ‘direct
and independent knowledge of the information on which the allegations are based.’”
Doc. 15 ¶ 10(a). Shortly afterward, they add, “Moreover, Defendants make a factual
attack on jurisdiction by attaching hereto a complaint in a civil forfeiture action filed
in this court against the Defendants.” Id. (citing Doc. 15-1).
Regardless of how the Nagels label their jurisdictional challenge, the court finds
it fundamentally factual in character. More importantly, it centers on facts highly
disputed by both sides to this action. In his Complaint, Mr. Taul pleads specific facts
that – if accepted as true – substantiate his identity as an original source under the
statute. He maintains that, as an employee of the defendants in June 2009, he overheard
them discussing their fraudulent kickback scheme with their relevant counterparts at the
Alabama Organ Center. Doc. 1 ¶¶ 27-30. Mr. Taul then asserts that Jed Nagel himself
told him “that it takes a little grease on some palms sometimes to make money” and
that Nagel confessed to him the fraudulent scheme referenced above. In August 2010,
Taul claims that he voluntarily informed the FBI of this scheme – before there was any
Considered altogether – and accepted as true – these assertions would permit
Mr. Taul to survive a purely facial attack on this court’s jurisdiction. The facts
corroborate that he had direct and independent knowledge of the information on which
he made his later allegations and that he voluntarily provided the information to the
government before he filed the present action. So, to the degree the Nagels contest
jurisdiction based solely on Taul’s complaint and any undisputed facts in the record,
such a challenge fails. But, the Nagels’ jurisdictional challenge exceeds these confines.
They quite clearly question the factual plausibility of Taul’s narrative. See, e.g., Doc.
15 ¶ 8. In their Motion, they dismiss Taul’s allegations regarding:
what he overheard in June 2009;
what Jed Nagel purportedly admitted to him at that time; and
when and why he approached the government
as “obviously contrived” and an “obvious effort to create jurisdiction.” Id. These are
quintessentially fact-based objections that enjoin the court to resolve fact-based
disputes. Under controlling Eleventh Circuit law, the court must therefore allow Mr.
Taul to conduct discovery and have a hearing on the jurisdictional issue. Because
The civil forfeiture Complaint against the Nagels – attached by the Nagels here to their
dismissal motion as evidence of a disqualifying public disclosure – was filed by the federal
government on March 5, 2012. Doc. 15-1 at 17.
satisfying the False Claim Act’s jurisdictional bar is obviously a prerequisite to the
survival of the rest of Mr. Taul’s other claims, dismissing his action without permitting
such procedural safeguards as discovery and a hearing would be unjustifiably
For the foregoing reasons, the court hereby DENIES the Nagels’ Motion to
Dimiss. The court will enter a separate scheduling order reflecting its determinations
on deadlines for the referenced discovery and hearing.
DONE and ORDERED this the 17th day of September, 2014.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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