Qui Tam / Whistleblower Claims
Have you witnessed fraud on the government by a health care provider, government contractor, employer, competitor, or someone else? If so, you can do something about it. The False Claims Act allows people to file “qui tam” lawsuits against individuals or companies that have directly or indirectly defrauded the federal government. Through qui tam lawsuits, whistleblowers may recover the government’s losses on the government’s behalf. People that file qui tam lawsuits are called the “relators,” and through their efforts billions of dollars a year are recovered by the US Treasury.
False Claims Act cases and procedures are unique, and a specialized knowledge of the law can be very helpful in getting a successful outcome for a qui tam lawsuit. The relator files the lawsuit in federal court “under seal,” meaning it is not available to the public and cannot be discussed with anyone except the government officials investigating the case. This gives the government time to investigate the fraud allegations without alerting the defendant. The seal initially lasts for 60 days, but seals on qui tam cases are routinely extended for one or two years while the government investigates.
At the end of the sealed investigative period, the government decides whether to join, or intervene, in the qui tam lawsuit. If the government joins the case, the litigation is conducted jointly by the government and the whistleblower’s attorney, with the government as lead counsel. If the government declines to intervene, the relator may go forward with the lawsuit and assumes primary responsibility for running the case.
The timing of a lawsuit can be critical. The first person to file a case under the False Claims Act for a particular fraud preempts all other cases. So if you plan to bring a case, it is important to do so before another whistleblower beats you to the courthouse.
The law stipulates that a liable defendant pay three times the government’s losses plus a fine for each false claim. When settling a case, the government often agrees to forego the civil penalties and accepts two to three times the amount of damages suffered by the government. The defendant also must pay the fees and the case-related expenses of the whistleblower’s attorney.
Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers are entitled to 15 percent to 30 percent of whatever amount the government recovers as a result of their qui tam lawsuits. The amount varies, depending on whether the government intervened in the qui tam case and other factors.
Congress decided to give whistleblowers a share of the recoveries that result from qui tam lawsuits to give people a strong incentive to step forward and take the personal and professional risks involved in reporting fraud. It also wanted to encourage private law firms to risk their resources in litigating cases on the public’s behalf.
When you are ready to step up and fight government fraud, you need experienced qui tam lawyers like Lubel Voyles. Please call us at (713) 284-5200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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