Originally created 05/18/99

Court revives lawsuit against Westinghouse



RICHMOND, Va. -- A federal appeals court Monday revived a lawsuit that contends Westinghouse Savannah River Co. lied to the government in its dealings with a subcontractor at its nuclear plant near Aiken.

In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned several parts of U.S. District Judge Charles E. Simons Jr.'s decision to dismiss the case brought by Edwin P. Harrison.

Mr. Harrison was a vice president for General Physics Corp., which sought a training contract at the Aiken facility in 1992. Mr. Harrison said he was fired after confronting General Physics officials about company employees illegally getting inside information from Savannah River Site and taking part in preparing Westinghouse's bid solicitation.

According to Mr. Harrison's suit, Westinghouse persuaded the Department of Energy to approve an 18-month, $2.75 million deal by misleading the department about the true cost and duration of the contract and falsely telling the department it had no conflict of interests with General Physics.

Westinghouse knew the contract, which it could do in house for $1.58 million, would take several years and that the training would cost more than the contract amount, the suit contended.

Judge Simons dismissed the case, finding that Mr. Harrison's complaint amounted only to allegations of inefficiency or did not fall under the False Claims Act. But the appeals panel, while questioning whether Mr. Harrison would be able to win on the evidence, returned several claims to Judge Simons for further review.

"These false statements caused the government to pay `claims' at a higher cost than it would have paid absent the fraud," the appeals panel said.