United States District Court, D. Arizona
HONORABLE G. MURRAY SNOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
by Defendants Amanda Alsobrook, Guidance Academy LLC
(“Guidance”), and John L.
Stonecipher (Doc. 189), the Motion for Summary
Judgment and/or Judgment on the Pleadings by April Morgan and
John Morgan (Doc. 244), the Motion to Supplement and
Amend/Correct by Hamilton (Doc. 255), the Motion for Leave to
File Supplemental Authority by Alsobrook, Guidance, and
Stonecipher (Doc. 336), and the Motion for Leave to File
Surreply by Hamilton (Doc. 346). For the following reasons,
the Court denies all of the foregoing motions with the
exception that the Morgans' Motion for Summary
Judgment/Judgment on the Pleadings is granted as to the
tortious interference claim involving Yavapai College, and
denied as to the tortious interference claim involving
2009, Yavapai Community College District
(“Yavapai”) entered an agreement with Guidance
Academy, LLC (“Guidance”) to jointly develop and
offer an Associate of Applied Science (“AAS”)
degree for Professional Pilot-Helicopter (“PPH”).
(Doc. 82 at 7.) Yavapai administered the PPH degree program
and supervised Guidance, which provided the flight course
component of the program. (Id. at 7.)
receive education benefit funding from the VA, Yavapai and
Guidance had to comply with Regulation 4201, or the
“85/15 Rule.” 38 C.F.R. § 21.4201(f)(2)(i).
Regulation 4201 requires that no more than 85% of students
enrolled in a specific course of study be supported by the VA
or by the institution. 38 C.F.R. § 21.4201(a). The
institution is responsible for reporting these numbers
accurately to the VA. 38 C.F.R. § 21.4201(f).
the helicopter program was the only flight degree program
offered by Yavapai, but in spring 2012, it also began to
offer a degree program in Airplane Operations
(“PPA”). This degree, offered through an
agreement between Yavapai and NorthAire Aviation, LLC
(“NorthAire”), (Doc. 82 at 8), provided the
flight training component of the PPA degree at
NorthAire's facility (separate from the campuses of both
Yavapai and Guidance). (Id.)
in Summer 2013, Yavapai began to phase out the PPH and PPA
programs and instead began offering only one degree, the AAS
in Aviation Technology (“AVT”), which had
concentrations with different curricula: Helicopter
Operations (“AVT (Helicopter)”), Airplane
Operations (“AVT (Airplane)”), Aviation
Operations and Management (“AVT (AOM)”), and
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operator (“AVT (UAS)”).
(Id.) Once it made this change, Yavapai combined all
members of these programs into a single calculation to
determine the 85/15 ratio for Regulation 4201. (Doc. 221 at
8.) The VA suspended the enrollment of new veterans in this
program in March of 2015, and noted that Yavapai must submit
separate ratios for every concentration program within the
AAS degree. (Doc. 221-1 at 25.)
fall of 2013, Yavapai also entered into a new joint technical
education district program (JTED) with a local school
district. These students attended the aviation program
through funding provided by the local school district.
Veterans were not permitted to join this program, and
students in the JTED program received a reduced tuition rate.
(Doc. 221 at 8.) Yavapai allegedly included these students as
“nonsupported” students for the purposes of
Regulation 4201 despite awareness of a “statute stating
that we can't count the JTED students as
civilians.” (Doc. 221-3 at 6.)
Yavapai hired Hamilton in September of 2011. (Doc. 245 at 1.)
Hamilton was tasked with overseeing the helicopter and the
fixed wing program, and his duties included ensuring
compliance with Regulation 4201. (Doc. 245-1 at 6.) Defendant
John Morgan is the Dean of Career and Technical Education
Campus for Yavapai, and he was Hamilton's direct
supervisor. (Doc. 245 at 2.) Yavapai terminated Mr.
Hamilton's employment in June of 2012. (Id.)
his termination, Hamilton was approached by a NorthAire
recruiter. (Doc. 308-1 at 2.) Hamilton was under the
impression that NorthAire was interested in hiring him.
(Id.) However, NorthAire hired another candidate for
one of the positions in which Hamilton was interested.
(Id.) A month later, another NorthAire recruiter
told Hamilton that hiring him would “cause a
friction” between NorthAire and Yavapai. (Doc. 308-1 at
3.) Hamilton alleges that Mr. Morgan approached a NorthAire
employee to warn him against hiring Hamilton. (Id.)
This series of events led Hamilton to file state-law tortious
interference claims against Mr. Morgan.
first complaint was filed in 2012, and it was amended in 2013
to include his state law claims against Mr. Morgan.
Exhaustive discovery followed, and many claims were added as
others were dismissed. The only outstanding Regulation 4201
claims remaining against the Defendants are the claims
relating to 1) the combined AVT program and 2) the JTED. The
only state-law claims remaining against the Morgans are the
claims asserting tortious interference with Mr.
Hamilton's employment at Yavapai and NorthAire. At issue
here is whether the Defendants are entitled to summary
judgment on these claims.
judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates
“that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[A] party seeking
summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323 (1986). The party opposing summary judgment “may
not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [the
party's] pleadings, but...must set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Brinson v. Linda Rose Joint Venture, 53 F.3d 1044,
1049 (9th Cir. 1995). Substantive law determines which facts
are material, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). “A fact issue is genuine ‘if the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.' ” Villiarimo v. Aloha Island
Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
The False Claims Act Claims
asserts two False Claims Act claims against the Defendants.
First, he alleges that the Defendants' combined method of
determining the 85/15 ratio for the AAS in Aviation
Technology (“AVT”) violated Regulation 4201. He
also alleges that considering the JTED students as
“nonsupported” students in their calculations
violated Regulation 4201. Hamilton alleges that the
Defendants were aware that they were violating Regulation
4201in both instances, and yet presented a claim for payment
to the VA despite this knowledge.
False Claims Act (FCA) imposes liability on any individual
that “knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, a
false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval.” 31
U.S.C. § 3729. The FCA empowers individuals to
“file suit on behalf of the United States seeking
damages from persons who file false claims for government
funds.” Hooper v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 688
F.3d 1037, 1041 (9th Cir. 2012). To establish a prima facie
case, the plaintiff must show that “(1) the defendant
made a claim against the United States; (2) the claim was
false or fraudulent; and (3) that the defendant knew the
claim was false or fraudulent.” United States ex
rel. Oliver v. Parsons Co., 195 F.3d 457, 461 (9th Cir.
does not provide a definition for the term
“false.” Rather, “courts decide whether a
claim is false or fraudulent by determining whether a
defendant's representations are accurate in light of
applicable law.” United States v. Bourseau,
531 F.3d 1159, 1164 (9th Cir. 2008). However, the FCA does
provide that the terms “knowing” and
(A) [mean] that a person, with respect to
(i) has actual knowledge of the information;
(ii) acts in deliberate ignorance of the
truth or falsity of the ...