Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced earlier this month that Accutest Laboratories will pay the State $2 million to resolve allegations that it deviated from both federal and state requirements for the extraction and testing of certain compounds, thereby submitting false claims to the State and its agencies for payment.
Now, a New Jersey law firm with an active environmental practice is advising its clients and friends to check whether the settlement might affect test results provided to them by Accutest.
In a Dec. 10 news release, the AG's office said that Accutest, based in Dayton, Middlesex County, provides an array of environmental testing services, including the testing of semi-volatile organic compounds. The State and its agencies – including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – have contracted with Accutest to perform a variety of environmental tests in its extraction laboratory.
The allegations central to the settlement flow from a federal qui tam or “whistleblower” lawsuit filed two years ago by a former Accutest employee. The lawsuit alleged that Accutest violated both the federal and New Jersey False Claims Acts by not following U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements in the extraction and testing of certain semi-volatile organic compounds.
Specifically, the Complaint alleged that some line-level technicians in Accutest’s extraction laboratories did not fully comply with Standard Operating Procedures or prescribed methods.
While the bulk of today’s settlement covers False Claims Act damages, a portion — approximately $920,000 — resolves alleged violations by Accutest of DEP Regulations Governing the Certification of Laboratories and Environmental Measurements. Under the agreement, Accutest admits no wrongdoing or liability.
The settlement announced today represents the largest non-Medicaid-related False Claims Act settlement entered into by the State since New Jersey’s False Claims Act took effect in March 2008.
Accutest is a member of a network of environmental testing laboratories across the nation, each with a common parent owner.
In April 2013, former employee Koroush Vaziri field a qui tam action in U.S. District Court in New Jersey alleging the failure of Accutest to follow proper protocols in both its extraction laboratory and its laboratory for the analysis of semi-volatile organic compounds.
In a Dec. 23 alert, the Scarinci Hollenbeck law firm writes of the settlement:
If your company relied upon test results that were the subject of the settlements, we suggest that you ask your environmental consultant or environmental counsel to advise whether investigations at your site(s) or project(s) were affected and whether you have any regulatory or contractual exposure relating to the use of that data.
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