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Fields v. Bi-State Development Agency of Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 23, 2016

ERIC FIELDS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BI-STATE DEVELOPMENT AGENCY OF THE MISSOURI-ILLINOIS METROPOLITAN DISTRICT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Eric Fields was an employee of defendant Bi-State Development Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District (Bi-State), doing business as Metro. Fields alleges that Bi-State wrongfully terminated his employment in retaliation for his reporting that Bi-State violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. § 3729 and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 115. Bi-State now seeks to dismiss Fields’ ARRA retaliation claim, arguing that it is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Because I conclude that Fields’ claim was timely filed, I will deny the motion.

         Bi-State has also filed a motion to strike Fields’ method of calculating his back-pay damages, or in the alternative to limit his prayer for back pay. The method used to calculate a back pay award is not an issue for decision on the pleadings, and I will therefore deny the motion without prejudice to be raised later as an evidentiary issue.

         Fields has filed a motion to compel Bi-State to respond to discovery, but does not dispute that the parties had agreed that Bi-State could wait until after the Court ruled on the pending motions to respond. While the Court certainly does not condone such an agreement, I also cannot condone a party going back on an agreement regarding discovery. I will deny the motion to compel at this time, on the assumption that it will be mooted shortly, and if disputes remain counsel must meet and confer to attempt to resolve them before filing any further discovery motion.

         Background

         Bi-State is a legally constituted body corporate and politic created through joint compact between the states of Missouri and Illinois, with its principal place of business in St. Louis, Missouri. It operates the public transportation system in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Fields worked for Bi-State between October 2003 and November 2012, during which time he was assigned to work on various large projects. During the course of his work, Fields obtained information that led him to believe that Bi-State violated multiple laws and regulations in relation to projects for which it received federal funding. Fields made protected disclosures regarding the alleged violations beginning on or about April 20, 2012. Bi-State discharged Fields on November 20, 2012. He alleges that his protected disclosures were a contributing factor in his discharge.

         Fields filed this complaint on November 13, 2015, alleging that Bi-State discharged him in retaliation for both investigating and filing claims regarding Bi-State’s liability under the FCA, and for making protected disclosures regarding the misuse of covered funds under Section 1553 of the ARRA. Bi-State filed this partial motion to dismiss, arguing that Fields’ ARRA claim was untimely filed inasmuch as it was required to be filed not later than two years after his termination.

         Legal Standard

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss a claim “for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the factual allegations of a complaint are assumed true and construed in favor of the plaintiff. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989). “The possible existence of a statute of limitations defense is not ordinarily a ground for 12(b)(6) dismissal unless the complaint itself establishes the defense.” Joyce v. Armstrong Teasdale, LLP, 635 F.3d 364, 367 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Jessie v. Potter, 516 F.3d 709, 713 n. 2 (8th Cir. 2008)).

         Discussion

         Section 1553 of the ARRA is titled “Protecting State and Local Government and Contractor Whistleblowers” and is known as the “whistleblowing provision” of the law. Fuqua v. SVOX AG, 754 F.3d 397, 400 (7th Cir. 2014). It provides that an employee of any non-Federal employer receiving covered funds may not be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against as reprisal for making disclosures regarding:

(1) gross mismanagement of an agency contract or grant relating to covered funds; (2) a gross waste of covered funds; (3) a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety related to the implementation or use of covered funds; (4) an abuse of authority related to the implementation or use of covered funds; or (5) a violation of law, rule, or regulation related to an agency contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant, awarded or issued relating to covered funds.

Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. at 297.

         Section 1553 of the ARRA does not expressly provide a statute of limitations within which an aggrieved employee may bring an action. See Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 115. Where a federal statute fails to provide any limitations period for a new cause of action, the Supreme Court's longstanding and settled practice has been to borrow the limitations period from ...


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