Contact our Georgia national whistleblower lawyers today. Call us at 770-643-1606

Explaining the Qui Tam Statute of Limitations

The qui tam statute of limitations creates a deadline to bring a whistleblower lawsuit.

the qui tam statute of limitations An individual thinking about starting a whistleblower lawsuit must be aware of the qui tam statute of limitations. If the individual isn’t careful, the qui tam lawsuit they want to start could be late. Then it is then thrown out by a judge. If this happens, no qui tam reward is possible.

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a deadline in which a lawsuit must begin. Almost any legal action must begin within a period of time after the underlying event occurs. In most civil lawsuits, the statute of limitations will range from one to a few years. The exact period will depend on the specific cause of action and the applicable state law. Each state has its own statute of limitations deadlines.

The purpose of the statute of limitations is to force victims to bring their lawsuit within a reasonable amount of time. Memories fade, organizations destroy documents and evidence becomes harder to find. If there is no time limit, lawsuits may begin even though almost all the evidence. This applies especially to evidence that would help the defendant, as it may no longer exist. This would be unfair to the parties involved, especially the defendant.

The statute of limitations also serves as a motivator to force potential plaintiffs, or whistleblowers, to bring their lawsuits as quickly as possible. Very few defendants benefit by having a lawsuit start later than it should. If a lawsuit must occur, most defendants would prefer to have it done with as soon as possible.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Qui Tam Action?

Depending on who is bringing the lawsuit under the False Claims Act, the statute of limitations will be three, six or 10 years.

When the federal government prosecutes the violator, the statute of limitations is three years from when the government knew or should have known the important facts about the fraud. However, regardless of when the federal government learns about the fraud, it must prosecute the violator under the False Claims Act within ten years of the alleged fraud. This 10-year time limit applies even if the government does not learn the important facts about the fraud until after this 10-year time limit expires.

When an individual brings a whistleblower lawsuit, figuring out the statute of limitations is a little bit easier. Here, the individual (also called a relator) must file the qui tam lawsuit within six years of the alleged fraud.

There is another statute of limitations deadline that can come up under the False Claims Act. It deals with situations where a whistleblower suffers retaliation for reporting the fraud to the federal government.

The False Claims Act allows a whistleblower who is the victim of retaliation to sue their employer when the employer fires, harasses, demotes or in any way discriminates against them. A whistleblower has three years from the date of the retaliation to bring an anti-retaliation cause of action under the False Claims Act.

When to Start the Statute of Limitations Clock

The qui tam statute of limitations for a whistleblower lawsuit appears straightforward enough. But sometimes things can get a bit complicated. For example, when does a court conclude the fraud takes place? Is it when the violator submits the fraudulent request to the government, such as for an overcharge of a product or service? Or is it when the federal government actually pays the violator? It can be either, with the exact answer depending on which court is hearing the qui tam action. This is a major reason why it’s extremely difficult to try a qui tam action without an attorney.

Another reason to have an attorney when bringing a whistleblower action is to handle situations where the statute of limitations appears to prevent a whistleblower from starting a qui tam action. At first glance, it may appear the whistleblower’s lawsuit will not start on time. But like many other legal rules, there are exceptions.

An attorney is particularly helpful to argue these exceptions in court. Some exceptions include the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act. This law says that the statute of limitations may stop temporarily if the United States is at war. Given the modern military history of the United States, there is a good chance this law may apply to the whistleblower’s situation. Then what seems like a dead case still has plenty of life and may be able to move forward.

Is Time Running Out on Bringing a Whistleblower Lawsuit?

Click to find out more about qui tam statute of limitations by contacting our legal team at Bothwell Law Group online.

Elements of Good Qui Tam Lawsuits

qui tam lawsuit

qui tam lawsuitsIf you think you have discovered your employer has been committing fraud against the federal government, you may have a whistleblower case. Referred to as qui tam lawsuits, they are authorized under the False Claims Act.

This provides a viable way for ordinary citizens to bring an action against perpetrators of fraud against the government. The False Claims Act also provides the whistleblower protection from retaliation. If the government chooses to intervene, there is potential for a large reward for you if you are the relator, the term for the one who brings the legal action.

Not every situation that appears a company or person has committed fraud has the necessary elements to become a qui tam lawsuit. There are some important factors for you to consider in determining whether or not you have a case.

Acts That May Give Rise to Qui Tam Lawsuits

The False Claims Act defines types of violations that may give rise to qui tam lawsuits.

  • Knowingly presenting false or fraudulent claims for payment to the government.
  • Submitting a false record to the federal government in order to have a claim paid.
  • Knowingly being part of a conspiracy to ask the government to pay false claims.
  • Submitting a knowingly false statement or record to the government in order to avoid an obligation to transmit funds or property to it.

If you are aware of any of the activities, you may be on your way to filing a qui tam action. You still have some questions to answer for yourself before you pursue litigation.

Factors to Consider Before Filing your Qui Tam Action

A qui tam attorney will help you find your way through the false claims jungle. But, some questions you should answer before contacting legal counsel include:

  • Has there really been fraud? Do not confuse mismanagement, waste or a contractual dispute with fraud.
  • What evidence do you have to support your claim? This is a touchy area. You need to have more than just your word against the company that you claim is acting fraudulently. Do you have emails? Work logs? Any company records that are not proprietary? There is a fine line between documentation that you obtained legally and company records that are confidential and to which you do not have legal access.
  • Is this the type of action where you believe the government will intervene? Without government intervention, many cases are dismissed by courts on the theory that if the government will not intervene, the case may not have merit.

There are many other requirements and nuances involved in filing a qui tam lawsuit. An experienced qui tam lawyer will evaluate your information and help you know if you have a case. Contact us today. We would be happy to help you determine whether you’ve got a case.

What are Qui Tam Lawsuits?

What are Qui Tam Lawsuits

What are Qui Tam LawsuitsWe get asked frequently “What are Qui Tam Lawsuits?” When someone has knowledge of fraudulent activity, that person is a relator and files a law suit on behalf of the government. This is quite different from the average lawsuit. In a qui tam lawsuit, the person bringing the suit is not the one harmed. After conducting their own investigation, the government may or may not join the case.

Thanks to the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act, the government encourages citizens to come forward with any information about entities defrauding federal programs. This allows the government a chance to recover part or all of the stolen funds. Without these private citizens, or “whistleblowers”, coming forward, the government often would not have been aware of the fraudulent activity. Therefore, the relator, or whistleblower, becomes entitled to receive a financial reward for their service to the country. Rewards will come if the litigation is successful.

What is the False Claims Act?

The False Claims Act is a federal law imposing liability on companies and individuals who defraud the U.S. government. Within the False Claims Act, there is a qui tam provision. This allows the individuals who know of the fraud against the government to “blow the whistle” on the illegal activities.

The False Claims Act requires either the Attorney General or an attorney with the Department of Justice to investigate any allegations of fraud against the government.

How long does the investigation take?

The government has 60 days to investigate any and all allegations posed in your complaint. However, they can request additional time if needed. After the investigation ends, a decision will be made as to whether or not the government will intervene in your case.

What happens if the government intervenes in my qui tam lawsuit?

The government may decide to intervene in your qui tam lawsuit. If so, the case will either be resolved through a settlement or a jury verdict.

What happens if the government does not join my qui tam lawsuit?

The government may decide not to intervene in your qui tam, or whistleblower lawsuit. Then your qui tam lawyer will help you decide if you should continue with the case or drop the case. If the government declines to participate in your qui tam lawsuit, that does not necessarily mean you do not have a valid case.

What should I do if I have a qui tam lawsuit?

Do you think you may have grounds for a qui tam lawsuit? You need to make sure to protect yourself and your rights. An experienced qui tam lawyer will walk you through the entire process of a qui tam lawsuit. They will let you know your rights and how to protect yourself as well as how to proceed with your case.

Are the Rewards Worth the Risk for Qui Tam Litigation?

qui tam litigation

risk for Qui Tam LitigationIf you are wondering whether you should move forward with qui tam litigation, it is important to understand the facts of the law. A portion of the False Claims Act, known as the qui tam law, allows private citizens to file a complaint against an individual, organization, or contractor who is committing fraud against the United States government.

Fraud can take many forms. Do you have knowledge that your physician is billing Medicare for services you weren’t provided? You can report this fraud under the qui tam law. Or, if you have knowledge that a contractor employed by the government is abusing their authority or grossly misusing government funds, this can also be reported under the qui tam law.

Becoming a whistleblower is not without risk. There are laws in place to protect individuals who report fraud from retaliation such as termination or discrimination in the workplace. However, there are still consequences to publicly reporting fraud.

What risks come with qui tam litigation?

As a private citizen reporting fraud, your identity is only kept confidential until the lawsuit is filed. Once the lawsuit becomes public knowledge, your identity will be revealed along with the details of the fraud. Because of this, you will gain a public reputation for being a whistleblower. Even though many will admire for your actions, some will not see your actions as admirable. This could affect your career, as your employers may see you as untrustworthy or loose-lipped.

Depending on the exact details of your lawsuit, friends and family may not approve of your actions. They may hold it against you, or think you are only reporting the fraud because you want the money.

Are the rewards worth the risk for qui tam litigation?

It is ultimately up to you to decide if you believe the rewards are worth the risk for qui tam litigation. If the government is able to recover fraudulently obtained funds, you are eligible for a reward for your actions. The qui tam law indicates that private citizens who report fraud in a qui tam lawsuit could receive between 15 and 25 percent of the recovered funds.

You could receive a financial reward. Also, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you played a role in recovering government funds. Fraud costs the government millions of dollars each year. Honest and brave citizens play a crucial role in recovering those funds.

Are you a private citizen with evidence of fraud against the United States government? You can become a whistleblower under the qui tam law. With the help of an experienced whistleblower law attorney, you can file a lawsuit on behalf of the government and play an important role in recovering illegally obtained government funds.

Call 770.643.1606 to find out more about qui tam litigation by contacting Bothwell Law Group.

What Types of Cases Do Qui Tam Lawyers Handle?

qui tam lawyers

qui tam lawyersSince the False Claims Act was amended in 1986, qui tam lawyers are now able to work with ordinary citizens who want to blow the whistle on fraudulent use of government funds. This amendment allows the relator to pursue a portion of the recovered funds as a reward for filing a complaint against the organization or company committing fraud. Also, the law protects relators against retaliation of any kind. The law  equips them to pursue compensation if they are the victims of retaliation as a whistleblower.

There are various types of cases qui tam lawyers handle. Each has its own unique set of circumstances to consider when filing a claim. The qui tam lawyers at Bothwell Law Group can assist you in filing a claim, increasing the chances of you receiving the reward you deserve for your actions.

Continue reading below to learn more about the types of cases handled by qui tam lawyers:

Defense Contracting

First of all, sometimes contractors with the U.S. government falsely report information concerning a product they manufacture for the U.S. military. Or, they may charge the U.S. government for a service, product, or supply they provide the military. Hence, they may be liable in a qui tam lawsuit.

Medicare and Medicaid Fraud

If a healthcare organization is submitting fraudulent claims to Medicaid or Medicare, they may be liable in a qui tam lawsuit. Fraudulent activity could include billing for services not received. Furthermore,  misrepresenting services received, or misdiagnosing a patient to allow for billing of additional services is prohibited.

Unreturned Overpayments

Also, healthcare organizations guilty of failing to return overpayments made by Medicare or Medicaid may be liable in a qui tam lawsuit.

Bid Tampering

In addition, companies contracted to provide services or products to the U.S. government sometimes tamper with or “rig” the bids in the contract. They may be liable in a qui tam lawsuit. Bid-rigging most commonly occurs with companies agreeing in advance among themselves to bid a certain way. Hence, one company will win while the other collects “loser fees.”

Upcoding

Finally, healthcare agencies sometimes bill Medicare or Medicaid for a more serious diagnosis or more expensive procedure. They hope to obtain over payment for an unnecessary service. They may be liable in a qui tam lawsuit. In some cases, this also takes the form of unbundling. Certain medical tests and procedures are typically billed in a bundle. In some cases, healthcare providers will unbundle these procedures in order to obtain further compensation or disguise double billing.

Do you have evidence of defense contracting fraud, Medicare or Medicaid fraud, bid-tampering or any other fraudulent activity? You may have grounds for a qui tam lawsuit. You can learn more about filing a False Claims Act lawsuit. Most of all, if you call 770.643.1606, you can speak with an experienced qui tam lawyer at Bothwell Law Group.

Explaining the Qui Tam Provision and How It Empowers Citizens

qui tam provision

qui tam provisionThe qui tam provision is a part of the False Claims Act. This provision allows private citizens to file a lawsuit if they have knowledge of an organization, company, or individual who has submitted false claims to the United States Government. However, before filing a claim against a fraudster, it is important to understand the details of the qui tam provision.

Who can file suit under the qui tam provision?

First, this portion of the False Claims Act provides power to citizens with knowledge of fraudulent activity. Also, the provision makes it possible for citizens to file suit. However, they must have adequate proof that false claims were submitted to the government.

Is a reward available under the qui tam provision?

The qui tam provision empowers citizens and motivates them to bravely blow the whistle on anyone who defrauds the government. However, reporting fraud is a risky action. Therefore, the government included a qui tam provision that rewards private whistleblowing citizens upon the recovery of government funds. As a result, whistleblowers may receive up to 30 percent of the recovered funds.

Who can be prosecuted under the qui tam provision?

The qui tam provision allows citizens to report knowledge of false claims submitted to the government. Therefore, any physician or healthcare agency receiving government funds and any contractor working for the government can be prosecuted if they have obtained government funds due to false information they provided in a claim.

What types of actions qualify as a false claim?

There are a wide variety of actions that can qualify as fraudulent under the qui tam provision. Furthermore, it is fraud any time an individual, company, or organization uses false information to obtain government funds. Examples of actions punishable under the False Claims Act include:

  • A physician is improperly billing Medicaid or Medicare for materials or services to get inappropriately high payments. This could include billing for services never provided. Or, it could mean upcoding a less expensive service or overbilling for a service. Finally, it could mean making a false diagnosis so they can bill for more expensive tests and procedures.
  • A government contractor is overbilling for products or services provided. He is providing false information in order to make more money.
  • A company or organization is selling the government faulty or dangerous products with full knowledge of the defective nature of the product.
  • A contractor or organization is billing the government for services they never provided.

Are you a private citizen and you have knowledge of fraudulent activity? The qui tam provision empowers you to file a claim against the entity committing the illegal activity. Share your information with a qualified attorney. Ultimately, you can play a role in recovering government funds. You may receive a financial reward for your actions.

Call (770) 643-1606 to find out more about the qui tam provision by contacting Bothwell Law Group.

Top 5 Tips for Filing a Qui Tam Complaint

Qui Tam Complaint

Qui Tam ComplaintWhen you consider filing a qui tam complaint, there are many things to take into consideration in order to increase your chances of a successful lawsuit. Your reward for filing the complaint depends on the outcome of the case. So, it is important you understand the process to avoid missing out on the reward you deserve as a whistle blower.

Here are the top 5 tips for filing a qui tam complaint:

#1. Move Quickly to File a Qui Tam Complaint after Becoming Aware of Fraud

Whistle Blowers are only rewarded if they are the first person to come forward with the details of a specific fraud. Because of this, it is important you quickly report the fraud as soon as you have evidence that the crime was committed.

In addition to being the first to file a qui tam complaint, there is a statute of limitations in place for qui tam lawsuits. Typically, you must file a suit within six years of the fraud’s commission. Special circumstances do exist where the statute of limitations may increase to ten years. However, we still believe you should move as quickly as possible.

#2. Keep the Details of Your Claim Private

Until the government has completed their investigation, the details of a qui tam lawsuit remain sealed. This means, you are expected to keep the details to yourself. Choose to disclose information concerning your suit with the public or post about it online? You could harm your lawsuit and risk your chance at a reward.

#3. Work with Your Lawyer to Understand the Court System

You can file a qui tam lawsuit in any number of jurisdictions. Because of this, you can work with your lawyer to carefully select the appropriate court for filing your lawsuit.

#4. Collect as Much Evidence as Possible

The reward you collect is dependent on your lawyer’s ability to prove the occurrence of fraud. In a court system where innocent until proven guilty is the guiding rule, evidence is key to winning a lawsuit. When you become aware of fraud, collect physical evidence of the fraud for your qui tam complaint to increase your chance of a successful suit.

#5. Choose Your Attorney Carefully

Filing a qui tam lawsuit is no simple task. The False Claims Act is a complicated law, and understanding the ins and outs of filling a lawsuit requires experience and extensive knowledge of the law. Carefully research each attorney before making a choice. Be sure you choose someone who has experience with fraud and a reputation for winning qui tam lawsuits.

Our team at Bothwell Law Group is experienced in whistle blower and qui tam lawsuits in Georgia and the surrounding area. Call 770-643-1606 to find out more about filing a qui tam complaint by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.

How Is the Validity of a Qui Tam Case in Healthcare Determined?

Qui Tam Case in Healthcare

Qui Tam Case in HealthcareA qui tam case in healthcare is one of the fastest growing claims in the last few decades, even surpassing military claims. Healthcare qui tam claims generally stem from improper or false billing for services or procedures, ‘off-label’ usage of FDA approved medications, or use of someone else’s health information to claim benefits.

Qui Tam Healthcare Cases and Whistleblower Laws?

Like any other qui tam cases, healthcare claims are covered by whistleblower laws. In a qui tam case, a person can raise a complaint on behalf of the government against individuals or companies that are behaving fraudulently.  Once a suit is raised, the government can investigate the whistleblower’s claims and choose to join the suit; if the suit is successful, the whistleblower (or relator) may receive a reward of up to 25 percent of the funds recovered by the government in the suit.

To protect a whistleblower from retaliation by an employer or others named in the suit, qui tam laws provide up to double the damages, plus attorney fees, for any retaliatory actions taken against a whistleblower.

How Are Qui Tam Cases Verified?

A qui tam case is not as simple as seeing an attorney and signing an affidavit. There are a number of steps you need to fulfill in order to file a valid qui tam suit:

  • You need to have credible evidence of wrongdoing committed by an individual or a company. The evidence needs to show either harm to the government, violation of the securities and commodities laws, or harm to employees or the general public.
  • You need concrete evidence of wrongdoing. Documentary evidence, while not required, will vastly increase the chance of government interest.
  • You need original evidence that cannot be gleaned from other sources. Evidence taken from public sources like the internet, TV news, or pubic government records cannot be used in a whistleblower claim.
  • You need to file right away. Under the ‘first to file’ rule, a whistleblower cannot file a claim if another whistleblower has filed one using the same evidence.
  • You need to remember the statute of limitations. It varies depending on the industry, but can range from 30 days to 6 years after the violations.

Can you Fake a Qui Tam Claim?

As with any suit, there may be unscrupulous folks who try to bring false claims under the False Claims Act.  This usually happens in order to collect rewards under the qui tam provision. These false claims will not hold up under scrutiny, nor will the evidence bear them out. Be aware that you may also be liable for perjury should you lie under oath.

Have questions about a qui tam case in healthcare? Call the Bothwell Law Group at (770) 643-1606.

Is There a Difference Between Whistleblower Attorneys and Qui Tam Attorneys?

Qui Tam Attorneys

Qui Tam AttorneysQui tam attorneys offer invaluable consultation and representation to whistleblowers. A whistleblower is anyone who reports illegal activity occurring in an organization. In contrast to the disgruntled employee who attempts to discredit a company by spreading rumors, the whistleblower has hard evidence to support his or her claims. While some alarm sounders in past times have been former employees of an organization, a whistleblower can be anyone with facts.

When considering the various sub-divisions within the overarching field of whistleblower law, qui tam justice emerges as one division. But just what is this area of law, and is it any different from whistleblowing?

Here are answers to some of the questions you may have regarding qui tam attorneys:

What Is Qui Tam Law?

Qui tam is a division of whistleblower law that specifically seeks to protect the government from fraud. The area covers various government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and protects individuals who report deception to the government.

Can You Give an Example of Qui Tam Law?

Individuals who reap the benefits of Medicaid when they can pay for personal insurance defraud the government by withholding information about their income. They report gross earnings that are well below the poverty line to qualify for Medicaid all while bringing in wages that can fully support their way of life. These individuals may just claim Medicaid, or they may take things a step further by using the income reported to qualify for other government funded programs. Reporting such activity to the proper authorities would fall under qui tam law since government programs are involved.

How Does a Successful Qui Tam Case Impact the Economy?

The government spends billions of dollars every year on programs that suffer from extortion. Your willingness to blow the whistle on such illegal practices keeps money in the system.   This allows the government to fund other efforts that would ordinarily go on the back burner due to low capital.

In What Way Is the Whistleblower Protected in a Qui Tam Case?

The False Claims Act serves as a shield for those who place their reputation on the line for reporting fraud. According to the statute, whistleblowers are to be rewarded in instances where their tip allowed the government to recover some or all of funds lost. Experienced qui tam attorneys ensure their clients receive what is due regarding payment.

What Else Does the False Claims Act Do?

The regulation gives any citizen the right to report fraud.  Whether or not the citizen has a direct affiliation with the company or person committing the act, he or she can file a fraud report.  The law also ensures that suits are “under seal”.  This means the whistleblower can remain completely anonymous throughout the investigation process. Cases are usually “under seal” for 60 days but typically there is an extension by a judge who gives the government time to partner with qui tam attorneys and look into the matter.

How Does a Qui Tam Case Come to a Resolution?

Just as with an ordinary whistleblower case, all evidence is weighed to determine whether or not there is a crime. The government takes action against the company or person responsible and rewards the whistleblower if there has been a violation. The government will not provide payment to the alarm sounder if it determines the evidence is not substantial or factual.

Bothwell Law Group protects whistleblowers and brings fraudsters to justice. Call us to learn more about qui tam law and our qui tam attorneys online.

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Qui Tam Lawsuit?

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Qui Tam Lawsuit

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Qui Tam LawsuitWhen an individual decides to file a lawsuit, they can choose whether they want to have an attorney represent them in the case. But, do I need an attorney to file a Qui Tam lawsuit? The answer is yes. You don’t have the choice to represent yourself with qui tam lawsuits. If you intend to file a qui tam lawsuit, you must do so with an attorney.

Filing a Lawsuit Pro Se

When an individual decides to start a lawsuit, they normally get to decide if they will hire an attorney or not. Most people will not take this route; they prefer the confidence that comes from having a seasoned attorney on their side. When a plaintiff does try a case without the help of an attorney, they are acting “pro se.”

There are several reasons why an individual may make this decision. One of the biggest reasons is to save money. In complex cases, such as qui tam actions brought under the False Claims Act, a client may feel what the attorney earns is more than they deserve. Given that, they choose to go it alone, without legal counsel.

Trying a case without the help of an attorney isn’t the smartest thing to do, but it’s theoretically possible and allowable – most of the time. One exception to this rule exists with qui tam lawsuits.

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Qui Tam Lawsuit? Yes, Only an Attorney May File a Qui Tam Lawsuit

A whistleblower who wishes to file a qui tam lawsuit must have an attorney represent them. This is because the qui tam lawsuit isn’t really the whistleblower’s case. It belongs to the US government. Therefore, it’s the government that should make the decision as to whether an attorney will bring a qui tam action.

Just like you’re able to choose if you want to hire an attorney or go pro se with your case, the US government has that choice as well. The only difference is that the US government realizes it’s not wise to try a qui tam lawsuit without an attorney’s help.

Why Should You Use an Attorney to File a Qui Tam Lawsuit?

Besides the fact that the law requires it, using an attorney to file a quit tam lawsuit – or any other lawsuit, for that matter – is simply a good idea. Many people who try a case pro se do so because they think they know what they’re doing. Unfortunately, they usually don’t. Let’s look at an example to illustrate.

Let’s say you want to sue your insurance company for refusing to pay a homeowner’s claim covered under your insurance policy. You’re confident you are correct, and the insurance company is wrong. You decide to file a lawsuit for breach of contract. Do you know how to do that? Maybe the person at the front desk at the clerk of courts is really helpful and tells you how to do it. Great! You’re all done with filing the complaint, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Did you file the complaint in the right court? “Of course,” you say, because you filed it in the county where your house is. But what if you could choose between two county courts? The county you live in is very conservative, or what most attorneys would consider “pro-defense.” But a neighboring county is what many attorneys would consider very “pro-plaintiff.” Do you still think you picked the right county courthouse to file your lawsuit? Just figuring out where to file your complaint is complex enough, even in an example that often trips up some attorneys.

And we haven’t even gotten to your complaint yet. Did you prepare it properly? Is your state a fact pleading or notice pleading jurisdiction? How and where do you intend to serve the complaint?

It’s easy to see how something that seems so simple is actually rather complex. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to serve a complaint on an insurance company in a simple lawsuit, how will you figure out how to serve the defendant in your qui tam action? If you don’t know, that’s good — that was a trick question! You actually don’t serve the complaint on the defendant in a qui tam action after it’s filed with the court. You could get into serious legal trouble if you served a qui tam complaint on the defendant while the case was still under seal (kept secret).

Bottom Line? Get an Attorney

If you don’t think you need an attorney to file a qui tam lawsuit, you’re wrong. Fair or not, that’s the law. So if you’re thinking about hiring a qui tam attorney, call 770.643.1606 to speak with Bothwell Law Group.

Who Is Qualified to Be a Relator in a Qui Tam Action?

Who is qualified to be a Relator in a Qui Tam action

Who is qualified to be a Relator in a Qui Tam actionWho is qualified to be a relator in a Qui Tam action? To qualify as a relator in a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act, special parameters must exist, both formal and informal. The formal requirements are set out by the courts and the False Claims Act itself. Informal requirements go to the personality of the relator. Read on to learn who is qualified to be a relator in a Qui Tam action.

Formal Qualifications of a Relator

A relator is an individual who brings the qui tam lawsuit on behalf of the US government. Therefore, they do not have to have been personally harmed by the alleged fraud. Most individuals can serve as a relator, although there are a few things to keep in mind.

Most of the time, the relator is going to be a current or former employee of the organization that is defrauding the US government or someone who has conducted business with that organization. This should come as no surprise given the amount of knowledge and information the relator is going to need to successfully pursue the qui tam action or effectively assist the government if it decides to intervene and join the case against the defendant.

The single most important qualification of a relator is that they must possess information not available to the general public. The biggest reason the US government is willing to share its recovered money is because it is gaining access to information, and therefore obtaining evidence it would not otherwise have. If the government could obtain the evidence itself, it would have no incentive to share its recovered money with anyone else.

Another formal qualification is that the relator cannot be a federal employee. Though it’s theoretically possible for the relator to be a federal employee, courts disagree on whether this is allowable. Even if it is, the US government doesn’t like it when relators in qui tam actions are federal employees. It’s easy to understand this conflict with the following example.

Mr. Sam works for the Environmental Protection Agency; therefore, he is a federal employee. Mr. Sam’s job duties include responding to and investigating complaints from citizens and companies about potential environmental violations. During an investigation, Mr. Sam discovers a major petroleum company has illegally dumped chemicals into a river. Furthermore, he learns that company also overcharged the US government $100 million when it provided fuel for military vehicles in Middle East military operations.

Mr. Sam wants to report this by starting a qui tam action. His potential reward can range from between $10 million and $30 million. See the potential problem? There is a delicate line between conducting an investigation as a government employee and an individual looking to increase his bank account, which could be an abuse of power.

Informal Qualifications of a Relator

In addition to the above requirements, some unofficial or informal qualifications will be helpful in serving as a relator. The first major qualification goes to the relator’s ability to handle risk.

There are several reasons an individual can choose to be a qui tam whistleblower. One of the strongest motivators is the potential to collect a substantial monetary reward. When a person decides to be a whistleblower, they are very likely to suffer retaliation at work. This can take the form of harassment, bullying and firing. And once fired, the relator may have trouble working with that organization or similar organizations ever again.

For example, an engineer at a defense contractor who blows the whistle may never again work as an engineer at a large company. They will have the reputation of being a “snitch” or someone who is willing to backstab their employer for a few bucks. This may very well not be true, but the world works not necessarily on reality, but on the perception of reality.

Depending on the difficulty of proving the fraud and the size of the potential monetary reward, the relator must balance those considerations with the almost inevitable retaliation they will face. Put another way, the individual will have to understand and accept they are taking a big risk when they sue the organization defrauding the government.

The second major motivating factor for many relators is the strong moral conviction of doing the right thing. Not all relators are in it for the money. Some of them simply want to report activities they deem unethical, unlawful, improper or all three. Given the risks involved and the likelihood of retaliation, a relator who’s not in it for the reward must have a strong sense of what’s right to continue pursuing the qui tam lawsuit in the face of retaliation.

Do You Think You Can Be a Relator?

Once you have learned who is qualified to be a relator in a Qui Tam Action, if you think you can serve as a relator, contact our team at Bothwell Law Group.

How Does a Qui Tam Lawsuit Work?

How Does a Qui Tam Lawsuit Work

How Does a Qui Tam Lawsuit WorkQui tam lawsuits work by rewarding a whistleblower who sues a person or organization that is defrauding the US government. Since the government is unaware of most of the fraud taking place against it, it relies on whistleblowers to bring the fraud to the government’s attention. One way this occurs is when the whistleblower sues the wrongdoer on the government’s behalf. In return for doing this, the whistleblower gets a portion of the money recovered by the US government.

How Does a Qui Tam Lawsuit Work:  Background

Qui tam lawsuits fall under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act is an old law, dating all the back to the Civil War. Back then, various contractors were defrauding the Union (and Confederate) government by selling war goods that were faulty, inadequate or otherwise unfit for use. To counter this problem, Congress passed the False Claims Act, which created liability on those who would defraud the government.

As a way of making the False Claims Act more effective, Congress added a qui tam provision. This allows individuals to collect a reward if they help the US government recover money taken through fraud. This “bounty” sounds like a good idea, but how exactly does the process work?

How Does a Qui Tam Lawsuit Work:  The Beginning

To start a qui tam lawsuit, there must be a whistleblower (also called a relator). A relator is someone who has knowledge of the fraud and can use that knowledge to sue (or help the US government sue) the person or organization who is defrauding the government. The government relies on relators because the government is unaware of most of the fraud that takes place. Additionally, even if the government suspects possible fraud, it won’t have anywhere near the knowledge or access to information that someone inside the defrauding organization would have.

Once someone decides to be a whistleblower, they must file a complaint in federal court, just as they would in a normal civil lawsuit. But what makes the qui tam lawsuit different is that the relator must file the complaint “under seal.” This means the whistleblower cannot reveal the qui tam lawsuit to the defendants or the general public. Instead of notifying the defendant, the relator will notify the relevant US Attorney and Attorney General of the United States by providing them with a copy of the complaint.

The next step involves the government investigating the alleged fraud. This can take many months. While this investigation takes place, the qui tam complaint will remain under seal. The US government will complete its investigation and conclude whether to “intervene” or join the lawsuit. Even if the government decides not to intervene, the relator can still continue the lawsuit. However, it makes the chances of success much less likely. This is for a couple of primary reasons:

First, the relator can’t rely on the resources of the United States to pursue the qui tam lawsuit. If the defendant is a powerful and wealthy corporation, it might be able to force the relator into giving up on the case, regardless of how much merit it has.

Second, if the US government decides not to join the case, it probably means it believes there’s not a good chance of winning. The defendant knows this, so if it sees the government backing out, it knows the relator doesn’t have a strong case.

Whether the US government joins or not, the case can continue with the relator setting out to prove that fraud has taken place.

How Does a Quit Tam Lawsuit Work:  Potential Reward for the Whistleblower

Assuming the qui tam lawsuit is successful, the relator may recover a certain percentage of the total amount of money recovered by the government. The percentage will vary depending on the facts of the case, whether the government intervened and if so, how much assistance the relator provided during the case. Typically, the relator can expect a reward of between 10% and 30% of the total recovery. The higher 25% to 30% amount is usually for relators who win cases the US government refused to join.

How Does a Qui Tam Lawsuit Work:  Whistleblowing Risks

The idea of collecting a sizeable reward entices many people to become whistleblowers. But to see a case all the way through to completion takes a lot of time, hard work and risk. For example, when the relator files the qui tam lawsuit, they have some level of anonymity, but many organizations can eventually figure out who the whistleblower might be if they go digging. Even if the anonymity remains at the beginning of the case, the person’s name usually comes out during the trial. And in the rare cases where it does not, the anonymity vanishes when the person collects their reward.

All this means the relator is at risk of retribution and retaliation. The False Claims Act has special provisions to prevent this, but it’s difficult to prove retaliation. Much of it is very subtle and underhanded. A whistleblower can possibly become blackballed after filing a qui tam lawsuit, resulting in the inability to find work in their chosen industry or field – but it can be impossible to prove who did it.

Interested in Getting an Award under the False Claims Act?

If you’d like to learn more about how does a qui tam lawsuit work, please contact Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.