Fifty years ago, conspiracy theorists could rant in bars, or perhaps write letters to the editor. Twenty years ago, conspiracy theorists could call talk radio. Now? Through the magic of qui tam laws, conspiracy theorists can wage their war against sanity in the courts.
While reading Bizarro-Overlawyered’s paean to 9/11 lawsuits — guess what? They’re not (just) about the money! They’re really about helping the public “know what happened”! — a commenter on the site provided a link to Morgan Reynolds’ 9/11-related lawsuit. Reynolds, a former economist at the Department of Labor, became unhinged sometime after 9/11 and began ranting on the internet about the various conspiracies that brought down the World Trade Center. (Hint: government laser beams from space, not airplanes.) In the past, that would have been the end of it. Even if Reynolds wanted to take legal action, he couldn’t — he wasn’t injured by 9/11, so he would have no standing to file a lawsuit against anybody.
Ah, but that doesn’t take into account the False Claims Act. The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act allow private individuals to sue on behalf of the government whenever the government is defrauded, and collect a portion of the money owed to the government. So all one needs to do is find a creative legal hook to claim that the government has been cheated, and all of the sudden one has standing to sue. What was Reynolds’ claim? He argues that when the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) — a government agency — prepared its report on the collapse of the World Trade Center, it paid various companies to consult with it. Since none of those consulting companies mentioned the government laser beams from space, they obviously defrauded the government.
So he sued… well, he sued everyone. To be precise, he sued:
Science Applications International Corp.; Applied Research Associates, Inc.; Boeing; Nustats; Computer Aided Engineering Associates, Inc.; Datasource, Inc.; Geostaats, Inc.; Gilsanz Murray Steficek Llp; Hughes Associates, Inc.; Ajmal Abbasi; Eduardo Kausel; David Parks; David Sharp; Daniele Venezano; Josef Van Dyck; Kaspar William; Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc; Rosenwasser/Grossman Consulting Engineers, P.c.; Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Inc.; S. K. Ghosh Associates, Inc.; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Llp; Teng & Associates, Inc.; Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.; Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.; American Airlines; Silverstein Properties; and United Airlines
Those are engineering firms, airlines, consulting firms, defense contractors, building contractors, and real estate firms. All of which get to deal with his lawsuit. (Will it eventually be dismissed? Yes. Will Reynolds be ordered to pay defendants’ costs? Probably. (Assuming he could afford those costs, which seems unlikely given how many defendants he sued.) But thanks to the notion that private citizens can sue without suffering any injury, it superficially states a valid claim. And, hey, it isn’t that much kookier than the actual 9/11 families who seek to blame the airlines, the World Trade Center, etc. for 9/11. Incidentally, this isn’t one of those wacky pro se lawsuits; Reynolds has an actual lawyer, albeit one who’s also a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.)
(No links in this post; no need to encourage these people. Google if you want to find it.)