To win qui tam claims filed under the False Claims Act, two conditions must be met. First, you have to file a lawsuit in federal court. Second, you have to win that lawsuit through trial, or a negotiated settlement. Easy, right?
Not so fast. While it does sound quite simple, there are several things to consider. We’ve broken down the court process for you below.
Qui Tam Claims: It’s All about Evidence
When bringing a qui tam case, the devil is in the details, or rather, the evidence. You need to provide your attorney with solid proof the business or individual in question was overcharging, submitting falsified claims, or otherwise getting more money from the government than it should. This is what determines whether someone has violated the False Claims Act, or not.
Paper trails, emails, receipts, vouchers, digital records and so forth are the best kind of evidence for supporting your claim. And in this instance, more is always better. Providing the who, what where, when and how will be key to securing a favorable outcome. You need enough to eliminate even a shadow of a doubt; and this is where an experienced attorney comes in.
Hiring a Qui Tam Attorney and Determining Whether You Have a Case
Once you’ve gathered the evidence, it’s best to take it to a qualified lawyer, familiar with the FCA and qui tam lawsuits. They’ll review all the information you’ve provided and help you determine if it’s enough to bring a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court where the fraud occurred.
Unfortunately, hearsay isn’t enough to file a complaint. Your attorney must have enough information to understand where and how your company receives government funds, as well as how the fraud was perpetrated, and how long it went on. They must also understand how you came to have this information, whether any of it has already been made public, and if you’ve already approached your employer about your findings.
Once they have the facts straight, they’ll determine whether to move on to filing stage.
Filing a Civil Lawsuit Under the False Claims Act
The facts you’ve assembled will form the basis of your written complaint; something known as a “Relator’s Statement”. These will then be forwarded to the Attorney General and the State’s Attorney when filed under seal (meaning no one but you, your lawyer and the government know you’ve filed suit) at the U.S. District Court.
These documents should contain everything needed to persuade the U.S. government to join, or intervene, in your case. The goal is to get the government to join you, and bring the weight of their investigative and legal services to bear in your case.
Note: It is imperative you keep the terms of the lawsuit under wraps. If it is made public, the judge will have grounds to dismiss your case, and you will have lost before a trial can even start.
The Government Investigates
When deciding to intervene in your case, the government will conduct a lengthy investigation into the allegations. This can take up to three years in the most extreme circumstances, although most if the time it’s much quicker. If the government joins, they will take over your case completely, and the Justice Department becomes responsible for trying (or settling) the case.
If they don’t join, you’re still allowed to bring suit on their behalf. This is when the seal period ends, and the defendant is finally served with the complaint. The lawsuit then continues along in almost the exact same manner as any other federal civil litigation.
Hiring the Right Qui Tam Attorney Is Essential to Success
You want someone with the experience and know-how to get the government on your side, and advise you about your best options. Call 770.643.1606 to find out more about qui tam claims by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.