Engineer reports he was improperly given access to classified documents. Whistleblower. $1.5M. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Plaintiff provided engineering support in fulfillment of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech RESS contract. While he was helping design the spacecraft's power supply, plaintiff received a classified/proprietary engineering math software that he should not have been given. He reported it. Later terminated.

The Case

  • Case Name: David Lillie v. ManTech International Corporation
  • Court and Case Number: U.S. District Court, CD of California, Los Angeles / 2:17-cv-02538-CAS-SS.
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, February 28, 2019
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, April 03, 2017
  • Type of Action: Whistleblower
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Christina A. Snyder
  • Plaintiffs:
    David Lillie, 68, reliability engineer analyst.
  • Defendants:
    ManTech International Corporation
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,505,561
  • Economic Damages:

    Past lost earnings: $521,983.00 

    Future lost earnings: $339,828.00

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $321,875

    Future: $321,875

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 6 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: Approximately 14 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 8-0
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defendant ManTech plans to file a motion for judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff plans to file a motion for attorney's fees, and a motion to request double back pay and interest under the False Claims Act.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    The Law Office of Jan T. Aune by Jan T. Aune, Arcadia.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Littler Mendelson, P.C. by Alison N. Davis (Pro Hac Vice from Littler’s Washington D.C. office) and Jina Lee, Los Angeles.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Leslie Michelle Daugherty, psychiatric social worker, therapy

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Mark A. Kalish, M.D., psychiatry, San Diego.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On Feb. 6, 2015, plaintiff David Lillie, then age 64, an engineer, was terminated from his position at ManTech International Corp., in Montrose.

    ManTech was a third-party contractor on a robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of the planet Mars, as part of the Mars InSight Mission. ManTech contracted with the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory to provide support for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology Reliability Engineering Support Services (“RESS Contract”). Funds from NASA were used for the RESS Contract and also to pay ManTech for plaintiff's services.

    Plaintiff provided engineering support in fulfillment of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech RESS Contract. While he was helping design the spacecraft's power supply, plaintiff received a classified/proprietary engineering math software, known as the MathCAD files, of which contractors, such as ManTech, were prohibited from gaining access. Plaintiff reported to ManTech, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (“JPL”) Ethic’s Department that he had received unauthorized access to classified/proprietary software during his work on the project. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff was placed on indefinite furlough and then terminated.

    Plaintiff sued ManTech Int'l. Corp, alleging that ManTech's actions constituted whistleblower retaliation and wrongful termination.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff claimed that JPL and ManTech obtained the classified/proprietary software, failed to provide him with any evidence that they were allowed to view and/or use the classified/proprietary software, and then attempted to cover it up by having him remove information about the classified/proprietary software from the interoffice memorandum he was completing for his work on the project. Plaintiff also claimed that ManTech fired him in retaliation for reporting that he had received unauthorized access to classified/proprietary software during his work on the project.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    ManTech contracted with the California Institute of Technology which had a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to manage the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ManTech and the California Institute of Technology entered into a contract for reliability engineering support services (“RESS Contract”). 

    Plaintiff did not help design the spacecraft's power supply. Rather, Mr. Lillie was involved in testing circuits to ensure that they performed as the designer represented they would. Mr. Lillie never alleged that he received a classified/proprietary engineering math software, known as the MathCAD files.  Rather, Mr. Lillie alleged that an employee of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory provided him with unauthorized access to confidential information of a third-party contractor in violation of a nondisclosure agreement.  Mr. Lillie did not disclose to ManTech that he had received unauthorized access to classified/proprietary software during his work on the project.   

    Finally, ManTech contended that: (1) it offered Mr. Lillie part-time on call work which he rejected, (2) Mr. Lillie was furloughed and then laid off because of lack of work; and (3) the RESS Contract was awarded to another contractor in 2016.  Further Mr. Lillie violated his nondisclosure agreement with ManTech by retaining confidential business information of ManTech and JPL after his termination.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $321,875
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $321,875
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $521,983
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $339,828

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $5,000,000 in a structured payout.
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: $1,000,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $500,000

Additional Notes

Plaintiff called 10 witnesses in his case-in-chief including non-retained expert witness Leslie Daugherty who testified regarding plaintiff's emotional distress damages. Defendant ManTech called three witnesses in its case-in-chief, including its expert rebuttal witness, for a total of 13 witnesses over the course of the trial. Witnesses included employees of Defendant ManTech, and plaintiff subpoenaed five witnesses to appear and testify from non-party California Institute of Technology - Jet Propulsion Laboratory. During the course of the jury trial approximately 149 exhibits were entered into evidence.

Counsel for non-party California Institute of Technology ("CalTech") – Jet Propulsion Laboratory ("JPL") also attended the trial based upon a February 15, 2019 Court Order. The federal Court Order was based upon the Court Denying JPL's Ex Parte Application to Quash Plantiff's Trial Subpoenas served on JPL employees and for a Protective Order. The Order stated in part: "On balance, the Court thus finds that the value and relevance of the requested testimonies outweigh the burden to JPL. Accordingly, to address JPL's concerns that plaintiff seeks to misuse the trial subpoena in an attempt to seek discovery for a putative claim against JPL,the Court will not permit plaintiff to solicit testimony on events unrelated to his operative claims against defendant. The Court will also not permit cumulative testimony. Additionally, counsel for JPL may be present at trial and may raise objections, where appropriate, on grounds of privilege." As a result of the Order, JPL's counsel DLA Piper, by Holly Lake, attended the trial in order object to plaintiff's counsel's questioning of JPL's employee/witnesses as allowed by the Court Order.

Under the False Clams Act, plaintiff has a right to double back pay and interest. Plaintiff will be filing motion for additional back pay of $521,983 plus interest accruing from on or about February 6, 2015, which was plaintiff’s last day of employment with ManTech. Thus, back pay damages could be increased to $1,043,966.00 plus interest accruing from February 6, 2015.

Also, all three counts, the FAC, the DCWPA, and California Labor Code Section 1102.5, provide plaintiff with the right to attorney’s fees and plaintiff will be filing a motion for attorneys fees.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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