803-753-1592803-753-9093

How a Qui Tam Case Works

whistleblower A qui tam case enables a whistleblower to assist the government in combating fraud. There are many types of fraud that impact the U.S. government financially. These include defense contractor fraud and Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Whistleblowers help the government recover billions stolen from taxpayers and the U.S. treasury through these cases. Read on to learn more about what a qui tam case is, the process involved, how Lydon Law Firm can defend your case and persons allowed to make these claims.

What is a Qui Tam Law Suit?

A qui tam lawsuit is also called a False Claims Suit or Whistleblower suit. The False Claims Act provides that anyone who consciously submits or is the cause of the submission of a fraudulent or false claim to the U.S. is liable to pay triple damages plus a penalty of up to $11,000. The Statute was first enacted in 1863 and includes a legal device known as the “qui tam” provision. Qui tam is a Latin phrase that means an individual who presents a claim on behalf of the King and on behalf of himself/herself. The qui tam provision enables a private individual, also called a relator or whistleblower, to file a claim on behalf of the government, where the individual possesses information implicating the named defendant of knowingly submitting or causing the submission of fraudulent or false claims to the government.

The Process Involved in a Qui Tam Law Suit

According to the law, the complaint must be kept under seal for a certain time, meaning that all the records affecting the case are private. The only institutions and individuals that are allowed access to the complaint are the local U.S. Attorney, the U.S. Justice Department, and the District Court judge handling the case. However, the court may avail the complaint to other person upon a motion by the U.S. Attorney.

According to the False Claims Act, the complaint together with all other information regarding the case should be kept under seal for sixty days. After sixty days, the Justice Department must file a motion for an extension with the District judge. The motion must show reasonable cause for the details of the case to be kept under seal.

The whistleblower’s attorney provides information to the government in an effort to convince the government to take the case. The statement contains evidence regarding the allegations provided in the complaint. The Act provides that an attorney of the Justice Department or the AG (Attorney General) is required to investigate the allegations with the help of law enforcement.

After the investigation is finalized, the Justice Department has to choose a cause of action from three options provided by the False Claims Act:

1) Intervene in the qui tam action. An intervention implies that the government is willing to act as a plaintiff in prosecuting the defendant.

2) Decline to get involved in prosecuting the defendant. In such cases, the relator’s attorney may still prosecute the case on behalf of the government. Many qui tam claims involve the whistleblower’s attorney prosecuting the defendant on behalf of the United States government.

3) Dismiss the whistleblower’s claim either because the case contravenes certain policy or statutory interests of the U.S. or because there are insufficient grounds for a case.

Another common option in qui tam actions involves a settlement agreement. The Justice Department settles the case with the accused before the intervention decision.

When the Justice Department’s intervention is approved, it will file a motion to unseal the complaint. The Department of Justice does not necessarily agree with all the allegations set forth by the relator. In many cases, the DOJ files its own complaint within 60 days of the complaint presenting its own statement of facts. Furthermore, DOJ can assert additional claims against the defendant under other statutes such as the Anti-Kickback Act. Relators cannot file claims based on other statutes since the False Claims Act only accommodates them.

How an Attorney Can Help in a Qui-Tam Case

There is a huge volume of qui tam cases filed with the DOJ in any given year. Qui tam claims have a limited number of DOJ lawyers looking into them, therefore, only the cases that are properly backed with strong proof stand a chance of being joined by the government. If you learn that you are the subject of a qui tam suit, you should seek counsel in order to present a vigorous defense. Again, the potential financial consequences are significant.

Who is Eligible to File a Qui Tam Action?

According to the False Claims Act, a qui tam claim can be brought by:

  • An employee or former employee against their employer- in many cases former employees are suspended or forced to leave their jobs for attempting to blow the whistle internally
  • A federal employee-These claims raise concerns of whether the whistleblower has a conflict of interest or whether a federal employee should present the claim to their employer instead of suing their employer
  • A competitor of the company being charged
  • Companies or individuals who subcontract with a U.S. government contractor