THE STATE OF ILLINOIS ex rel. JOSEPH PUSATERI, Appellee,
THE PEOPLES GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY, Appellant
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Appellate court judgment reversed. Circuit court judgment affirmed.
A circuit court complaint was properly dismissed as raising ratemaking issues which are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Illinois Commerce Commission where it alleged that a gas utility company's failure to make accurate reports to the Commission caused rates to be higher and the State, as a customer, to pay more--Whistleblower Act and False Claims Act.
Michael M. Conway, David B. Goroff, Lisa M. Noller, Theodore T. Eidukas, John L. Litchfield, Foley & Lardner LLP; J. Timothy Eaton, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, all of Chicago, for Appellant.
David Novoselsky, Edward J. Stawicki, Jonathan P. Novoselsky, Novoselsky Law Offices, of Chicago, for Appellee.
John E. Rooney, Anne W. Mitchell, Conor B. Ward, Rooney Rippie & Ratnaswamy LLP, of Chicago, for Amici Curiae Ameren Illinois and Nicor Gas Company.
John J. Hamill, Ramon Villalpando, Jenner & Block LLP, Thomas S. O'Neill, Anastasia O'Brien, all of Chicago, for Amicus Curiae Commonwealth Edison Company.
CHIEF JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
GARMAN, CHIEF JUSTICE
[¶1] Plaintiff Joseph Pusateri filed a complaint under the False Claims Act alleging defendant Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company (PG) used falsified gas leak response records to justify a fraudulently inflated natural gas rate before the Illinois Commerce Commission (Commission). As a customer, the State of Illinois would have paid such fraudulently inflated rates, making PG liable under the False Claims Act. The Cook County circuit court dismissed Pusateri's complaint with prejudice, finding that as a matter of law, there was no causal connection between the allegedly false reports and the Commission-approved rates. The appellate court reversed, construing the complaint's allegations liberally to find PG could have submitted the safety reports in support of a request for a rate increase, despite not being required to do so under the Administrative Code. Accordingly, the appellate court found Pusateri had presented enough of a viable claim to survive dismissal. 2013 IL App. (1st) 120972-U.
[¶2] This court granted PG's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. July 1, 2013). We also permitted the Commonwealth Edison Company, the Ameren Illinois Company, and the Northern Illinois Gas Company to file briefs amici curiae on behalf of defendant PG. Ill. S.Ct. R. 345 (eff. Sept. 20, 2010). For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.
[¶4] Pusateri is a former PG employee who filed a sealed complaint against the company under the False Claims Act on September 2, 2009. 740 ILCS 175/1 et seq. (West 2008). In his complaint, Pusateri alleged PG must file a report with the Commission any time its response to a possible gas leak, from receipt of the call to arrival of the maintenance crew, takes more than one hour. In late 2001, Pusateri rose to the level of service supervisor. Pusateri alleged that his superiors then instructed him to change computer logs to reflect a better response time, so that no Commission report would be filed, and that he and other managers would alter such records. Pusateri further alleged that these falsified reports were used by PG to help justify rate increases in Commission rate-setting proceedings. Pusateri's complaint contained two counts, premised on separate subsections of the False Claims Act. The first count argued the allegedly false safety records were ...