Thursday, January 30, 2014

FCA's Not Always a Federal Case

Driscoll v. Superior Court, No. F066550 (D5 Jan. 30, 2014)

Generally, when a claim arises under a federal law, state and federal courts have concurrent subject matter jurisdiction over it,
unless a federal statute expressly vests exclusive jurisdiction in federal court. Plaintiff here is allegedly a whistle-blower; he sued his employer in Madera County Superior Court for retaliation under the federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729. The superior court granted the employer’s demurrer on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction. But the FCA retaliation statute’s jurisdiction provision, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h)(2), says only that FCA cases “may be brought the appropriate district court of the United States[.]” It does not say that they must be brought in federal court exclusively. Cf. 28 U.S.C. 1338(a) (exclusive federal patent and copyright jurisdiction); 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(1) (exclusive federal ERISA jurisdiction). So the trial court erred, and a writ would issue ordering it to vacate its demurrer order.

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