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Is There a Federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations?

Federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations

Federal False Claims Act Statute of LimitationsDeciding you are ready to report fraud is an important step. But what if that step comes too late? Understanding the Federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations can help you make that very important choice in a timely manner.

Does the False Claims Act Include a Statute of Limitations?

The False Claims Act does have a Statute of Limitations. It states that a claim must come before the court within six years of any offense. It also says you must come forward within three years of finding out about the information. A statute of limitations is in place for most laws; so, this is not rare.

However, like many other laws, the Statute of Limitations in the False Claims Act does have an exception. While the law states a claim limit of within six years, it also states a person must report the fraud within three years of finding out about the information. These three years can extend the time of liability for the defendant.

For instance, if the fraud report comes to light five years after the violation occurs, the government still has the three years after reporting to consider when investigating.

The False Claims Act exists thanks to questionable behavior during the American Civil War. In 1863 the government made it law that you were not allowed to sell horses that were unfit to work. The Act also said you were not authorized to sell guns or ammunition that did not function or were faulty. In addition, the Act covered other much-needed government supplies.

The False Claims Act has changed over the years as society has developed. The law now includes contractors who claim payment for hours they haven’t worked. It also involves fraud against Medicare and Medicaid. Whistleblower Protection is part of the False Claims Act.

What Does the Federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations Mean for You?

In a nutshell, you have six years. But, as with most laws, there are exceptions. Here are some examples.

Let’s say you are working as a laborer in a government building. Your employer tells you to use half the amount of screws you would usually use to build this building. You know this is a safety issue. You also know your employer is claiming you are using the full amount of screws. The employer’s lie is an offense under the False Claims Act and falls under the Federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations.

But because your boss told you to do this, you worry you will lose your job, so you don’t say anything. After a couple of years, you have moved on to another job with a different building firm. The safety of people using that first building is still a worry, and you wonder if it will collapse. But remember, you can still report the offense for up to six years; your former employer can still face prosecution.

What Should You Do If the Federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations Expires?

In some cases, employers are at risk even if the six year limit has expired. Using the above example, let’s assume you report the offense to a government agency after five years. That agency now has three years to sue your former employer. This extension falls under another False Claims Act Statute of Limitations provision. It states that “under no circumstances can someone be sued after ten years of an alleged offense.” Because of these time limits, it is important to report crimes right away.

Why Is It Important to Be Aware of the Federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations?

False Claims Act crimes often involve safety. People can get injured, lose money, or lose their quality of life when contractors don’t perform their jobs as they should. But sometimes offenses are not uncovered until some time has passed. The public safety issue is still there, but the problem may not present immediately. This reality is why the government allows a complaint after a few years.

At the other end of the scale, there has to be a limit on how much time has passed. In the example of the screws, 20 years may pass, and the building doesn’t fall. The longer the amount of time that has passed, the harder it is to claim an offense has occurred. Memories fade over the years, and you may not remember an event as well as you once did. Or perhaps the building has undergone reinforcements in the last 20 years. All these possibilities make it impractical for the government to pursue a case after a period of several decades.

If you know of an offense against the False Claims Act, it is important to remember the Federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations. As the public’s safety is often at risk, you should report any offense as soon as you become aware of it. Contact the skilled Federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations Attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

What are the Qui Tam Statute of Limitations?

Qui Tam Statute

Qui Tam StatuteQui Tam lawsuits are brought by private citizens on behalf of the federal government in instances of fraud by persons or corporations . Many of these cases involve health care fraud by pharmacies, hospitals or others for drugs or services through Medicare and Medicaid, both federal governmental programs. Both the federal government and the whistleblower benefit. And like all matters of litigation, statutes of limitations, limiting the time in which the suit may be brought, apply. Once the qui tam statute of limitations has expired the case cannot be brought.

Whistleblower lawsuits (or qui tam ) have become an integral part of the enforcement of the False Claims Act.

The statute of limitations for a qui tam action is found in Section 3731(b) of the False Claims Act. A civil action may not be brought more than six years after the date on which the alleged violation of the False Claims Act is committed, or more than three years after the date on which material facts giving rise to the cause of action are either known or reasonably should have been known, and in no event more than ten years after the violation of the Act.
If this appears confusing, it is. In essence, the second half of this provision tolls the qui tam statute of limitations, providing the government a longer period of time in which to file suit, an additional three years. The question is whether this tolling provision applies in situations in which a private person, or “relator,” or whistleblower brings the suit on behalf of the government. And on this question, the courts are split. In the majority of federal jurisdictions, the courts have ruled that the tolling provision does not apply to the whistleblower. However, there are jurisdictions in which the courts have applied the tolling statutes to the individual whistleblower, effectively extending the statute of limitations.
In addition, in these cases, there is always a question about the date that the violation occurs. Most courts have held that the violation occurs on the date that the false claim is submitted. Other jurisdictions have held that the statute starts to run when the claim is actually paid. This further complicates the issue of the statute of limitations.
Finally, there is a Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act that further tolls the statute of limitations when the United States is at war. Courts have applied this further tolling of the statute of limitations, ruling that the statute of limitations for whistleblower cases has been tolled since 2002 when Congress passed the Iraq War Resolution.
This is a complex area of law and an attorney’s help is needed to navigate the Qui Tam Statute of Limitations and how they are applied within any given jurisdiction.

Qui Tam Statute of Limitations: How Long Do I Have to File?

Qui Tam Statute of Limitations

Qui Tam Statute of LimitationsDo you have grounds for filling a false claim, but are you unsure of the qui tam statute of limitations? Understanding how long you have to file a qui tam lawsuit is important. Lawsuits filed outside of the statute of limitations cannot be pursued by the government and the relator, or the citizen bringing attention to the fraud, cannot be rewarded for exposing the fraudulent activity.

How long do I have to file a False Claims Act lawsuit?

In an effort to encourage citizens to disclose knowledge of fraud in a timely manner, a statute of limitations was built into the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act outlines the statute of limitations for qui tam lawsuits in section 3731(b). This section of the False Claims Act states that a suit can be filed up to 6 years after the occurrence of the fraudulent activity.

How does the Qui Tam statute of limitations apply to the government’s actions?

After outlining the statute of limitations and how it applies to relators of fraud, the False Claims Act also addresses the issue of how long the government has to take action in recovering money lost as the result of fraud. According to section 3731 of the False Claims Act, the United States government can take action up to three years after receiving information concerning the fraud or at the very most 10 years after the fraudulent activity occurred. While there has been some debate concerning whether this portion of the statute of limitations can be applied to relators, the general consensus is that this portion was created to govern the United States government’s actions in qui tam lawsuits.

What about first-to-file?

Outside the qui tam statute of limitations, there is another way the government is encouraging relators to file a qui tam lawsuit in a timely manner. In section 3730(b) of the False Claims Act, the first-to-file statute is outlined. Citizens can only be rewarded for disclosing knowledge of fraud if they are the first person to file information about a specific fraudulent activity. This section of the False Claims Act was created to encourage timely filing of a qui tam lawsuit but it was also created to prevent multiple lawsuits being filed concerning the same fraudulent activity.

Public knowledge of the fraud?

The Qui Tam statute of limitations and the first-to-file rule were created to encourage timely reporting of fraudulent activity. There is one more reason relators should act quickly and file a qui tam lawsuit in a timely manner. Similar to first-to-file, if the fraud is made public before filing, the relator is no longer entitled to compensation for disclosing information regarding the fraud.

At Bothwell Law Group, we focus all of our efforts on lawsuit related to the False Claims Act. Because of this, we are able to act quickly, filing qui tam lawsuits in a timely manner. If you have questions about the qui tam statute of limitations, click to contact the Bothwell Law Group today.