The qui tam procedure is quite different from a typical lawsuit. The steps involved are detailed and numerous, with several potential trip-ups scattered throughout. Here are the basics of what you need to know about the whole process:
Step 1: File the Civil Complaint.
A “relator” (aka- any normal human being) files a civil suit on behalf of the government. The suit is filed under seal for 60 days, meaning the defendant is not made aware of it at the time it’s filed. Because it is filed under seal, it is important you do not discuss the details of the case with anyone other than your lawyer. Doing so can violate the seal and cause the case to be rejected, or thrown out, based on the technicality.
Step 2: The Government Investigates.
Depending on the scope and magnitude of the allegations, the government can file an extension of the seal for as long it deems necessary. This can extend the process to well over a year.
During that time, the government reviews the information and proof you have gathered and also conducts its own investigation. Because this can include thousands of claims spread over numerous years, it’s easy to understand why this part can eat up so much time.
Step 3: The Government Intervenes. Or not.
Based on the strength of the case, the government may decide to intervene, or join your case. This means they are deciding to take over the action in its entirety. You and your counsel likely need to do nothing further.
However, if they decide not to intervene, you have the right to continue to pursue the action on behalf of the government. This is the gut check moment for you and your attorney because you no longer have the clout of Uncle Sam standing beside you. Further, if the court finds in the defendant’s favor, and believes you filed the suit as a means of harassment against them, you will be held liable not only for your own attorney fees, but theirs as well.
Step 4: The Court Rules.
After trial, the Court will provide its ruling in your case. In the event the Court finds in your favor, you may be entitled to up to 30% of the award. However, this amount can be reduced under any of the following conditions:
- The government intervened and carried the case through to completion.
- You were an integral part of planning and perpetrating the fraud in question.
- You are convicted of criminal conduct as a result of your role in the fraud.
Roles and Responsibilities Between Relator and Attorney
The attorney you hire will represent you throughout the duration of your case. Typically, the attorney is paid from any proceeds arising from a recovery, allowing individuals with strong cases and few financial means to proceed with their case without hardship.
This agreement is referred to as a “contingent representation contract.” The law firm will agree to absorb any of the costs of the litigation and supplies legal knowledge, experience, and hours of service in return for costs covered by the final ruling and a portion of any recovery.
Additional Qui Tam Procedure Questions We Didn’t Cover?
You can learn more about qui tam procedure by contacting our team at Bothwell Law Group at 770.643.1606.