United States ex rel Bias v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board, 120518 FED5, 17-30982

Docket Nº:17-30982
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM
Party Name:United States of America, ex rel, RONALD BIAS, Plaintiff - Appellant v. TANGIPAHOA PARISH SCHOOL BOARD, Defendant-Appellee
Judge Panel:Before STEWART, Chief Judge, KING and OWEN, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:December 05, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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United States of America, ex rel, RONALD BIAS, Plaintiff - Appellant

v.

TANGIPAHOA PARISH SCHOOL BOARD, Defendant-Appellee

No. 17-30982

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 5, 2018

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana USDC No. 2:12-CV-2202

Before STEWART, Chief Judge, KING and OWEN, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM [*]

Ronald Bias filed a petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in May 2008. After the bankruptcy court confirmed his plan, but before he received a discharge, Bias filed this suit under the False Claims Act. He did not disclose this litigation to the bankruptcy court. The Tangipahoa Parish School Board moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Bias's claim was barred by judicial estoppel. The district court granted the motion and Bias appealed. We AFFIRM.

I.

In June 2009, the United States Marine Corps informed Ronald Bias that it had mistakenly allowed him to retire two years early. At the time, Bias was employed by the Tangipahoa Parish School Board (the "Board") as a senior instructor for Amite High School's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps ("JROTC"). The Marine Corps gave Bias the option of paying back the retirement funds he had erroneously earned or reenlisting for fifteen months to become eligible for retirement. Bias chose the latter. Bias was allowed to fulfill his reenlistment through his employment as a JROTC instructor. Bias alleged that he was told he would remain at Amite High School for the entirety of his fifteen-month reenlistment.

Bias contends that during this time Carl Foster, another JROTC instructor at Amite, submitted fraudulent requests for reimbursement to the Marine Corps. Bias alleges that he reported this behavior to Michael Stant, Amite's principal, and to the Marine Corps, but he was not taken seriously.

Shortly thereafter, the Marine Corps informed Bias that he could retire or be transferred to a New Orleans school district. Bias considered this action to be retaliatory and filed this lawsuit against the Board, Stant, and Foster on September 5, 2012. Bias asserted claims under the False Claims Act ("FCA"), including a qui tam action and a retaliation claim. He later amended his complaint to add claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law.

The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss Bias's FCA retaliation claim and § 1983 and state law claims, and the parties settled Bias's remaining FCA claim. Bias appealed the dismissal. We affirmed on all grounds but one: we reversed the dismissal of Bias's FCA retaliation claim as against the Board and remanded the suit to the district court for further proceedings. See United States ex rel. Bias v. Tangipahoa Par. Sch. Bd., 816 F.3d 315, 328 (5th Cir. 2016).

On remand, the Board filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), arguing that judicial estoppel barred Bias's suit because he had not disclosed the cause of action in his Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. Bias had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the Eastern District of Virginia in May 2008. The bankruptcy court confirmed his plan on June 5, 2008-several years before Bias initiated this suit in September 2012. For the next five years, Bias made payments in accordance with the plan until he received a discharge on July 18, 2013. Bias did not amend his bankruptcy schedules to disclose this cause of action or otherwise inform the bankruptcy court of this litigation. Finding that judicial estoppel barred Bias's claim, the district court granted the Board's motion and dismissed the case. Bias timely appealed.

II.

We typically review de novo a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Edionwe v. Bailey, 860...

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