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Federal judge dismisses whistleblower suit against Rolls-Royce

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A federal judge in Indianapolis has dismissed a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former Rolls-Royce Corp. engineer who accused the company of selling faulty aircraft engine parts to the government.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker on Monday sided with London-based Rolls-Royce, which employs about 4,500 people in Indianapolis, on its motion to dismiss the case.

Curtis Lusby, who worked as a senior project engineer at the Indianapolis Rolls-Royce aircraft engine plant until 2001, accused the company of violating the False Claims Act by selling parts to the government that it knew did not regularly meet contractual specifications and requirements.

The parts were used in the T56 turboprop engine developed in the 1950s, one of the longest-serving engines in the military’s fleet.

Barker said in her ruling that Lusby failed to prove the accusations because he provided no evidence that Rolls-Royce ever sold a defective part to the government.

“At this late stage in this litigation, mere assumptions and speculation are insufficient to carry the day,” Barker wrote. “In the oft-used phrase, summary judgment is the ‘put up or shut up’ moment in a lawsuit.”

Lusby instead argued that Rolls-Royce should bear the burden of proof that it had not violated the law because it was responsible for the flaws.

But Barker said Lusby was unable to provide previous cases to support his argument.

In a prepared statement, Rolls-Royce said it is pleased with the ruling, which confirms that Lusby’s claims had no merit.

The case had been winding its way through the federal court system for years. Lusby first sued Rolls-Royce in May 2003. After two of his lawyers withdrew from the case at different times, he filed amended complaints in 2006 and 2007.

U.S. District Court in Indianapolis dismissed his complaint. But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2009 reversed part of the judgment, returning it to the federal court in Indianapolis.

Rolls-Royce still faces a similar lawsuit in the same court filed by a former safety official charging that the company concealed repeated defects at the aircraft engine plant.

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