The owners of a former shipping company in Depew will get another chance to prove the federal government was cheated out of millions of dollars.
A federal appeals court recently overturned a local court decision that had dismissed the owners’ whistle-blower case against DHL Express, a national transport company.
The two men who filed the suit, Kevin Grupp of Clarence Center and Robert Moll of Orchard Park, claim DHL intentionally and illegally overcharged the Department of Defense and other federal agencies over the course of several years.
U.S. District Judge John T. Curtin dismissed the suit in September, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City overturned his decision and ordered the case returned to Buffalo.
“Obviously, we’re pleased with the decision,” said Daniel C. Oliverio, a lawyer for Grupp and Moll. “We think the Second Circuit was right on the money.”
Grupp and Moll, owners of the former MVP Delivery and Logistics company, filed a civil suit in 2008 accusing DHL of charging the federal government a special air express surcharge when in fact many of the government’s packages were transported by truck.
The two men, who worked as independent contractors for DHL, say thousands of packages were transported this way.
DHL’s lawyer expressed disappointment with the decision but said the more important question remains unaddressed by the courts.
“The court did not reach the more basic and stronger issue – that DHL did nothing that was false or deceptive,” said Lawrence J. Vilardo, a lawyer for DHL.
Vilardo said his client is confident the suit will again be dismissed, this time for substantive, not technical, reasons.
Curtin, in ruling against Grupp and Moll, cited their failure to notify DHL within the required time period.
The judge pointed to a section of the United States Code governing rates and billings by delivery companies and the requirement that challenges to those bills be filed within six months of the original billings.
The appeals court disagreed and said the six-month deadline conflicts with aspects of the False Claims Act, the federal whistle-blower law, that give the government more time to become aware of fraud.