Qui tam comes from the Latin phrase meaning “who as well for the king as for himself sues in this matter.” Generally speaking, a qui tam lawsuit is filed by a whistleblower’s attorney in order to expose fraud committed by a person or business on the government. The lawsuits are used to recover damages suffered by the government (and all of us as citizens) due to fraud or other illegal behavior against the government.
What is a Qui Tam Lawsuit and Why Should I be a Whistleblower?
Qui tam cases are a very powerful way for ordinary people to help the government stop fraud. Frequently, qui tam cases are brought against healthcare providers for fraud and false billing of Medicare or Medicaid. Military defense contractor fraud cases are also common and have been known to cost the US government and taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
The United States provides an incentive for citizens to come forward with qui tam lawsuits by awarding successful whistleblowers a share of the recovery. The amount of the whistleblower’s reward varies from cases to case. A percentage of the recovery awarded to whistleblower will depend on the quality of the case presented to the US Department of Justice as well as other factors. If the Justice Department intervenes in the case and recovers funds, the whistleblower is entitled to 15 percent to 25 percent of the award or settlement. If the government doesn’t intervene in the case and it is pursued by the whistleblower privately, the whistleblower reward is between 25 and 30 percent of the recovery.
In addition, there are whistleblower anti-retaliation laws which make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against someone who engages in protected conduct, such as disclosing information that the whistleblower believes is evidence of illegality, fraud, specific dangers to public health and safety, abuse of power or gross mismanagement. Before taking action which could put you at risk for retaliation, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced qui tam attorney to discuss you legal rights.
To speak with a qui tam lawyer in Bucks County, PA call attorney Brent Wieand directly at (215) 666-7777.
How Does a Qui Tam Lawsuit Work?
Qui tam cases are different from a typical personal injury lawsuit. In a qui tam lawsuit, instead of the whistleblower suffering an injury and damages, it is the government and its citizens who have been harmed. Thus, the whistleblower files the lawsuit on behalf of the government, instead of himself.
Generally speaking, if someone has evidence of fraud against the government and wants bring it to light, that person should find an experienced trial lawyer to represent their interests. There is a detailed claims filing process and the law requires a qui tam lawyer to file a lawsuit for the whistleblower under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq.) The False Claims Act provides for damages including up to three times the government’s losses plus penalties for each false claim. It should be noted that violations involving securities law and tax frauds are treated differently than Qui tam cases.
A qui tam lawsuit can be pursued in conjunction with the US Department of Justice or by a private person, known as a “relator” who brings a lawsuit on behalf of the United States. The government only intervenes in about a quarter of all qui tam lawsuits. If it does not intervene, the whistleblower may be given the option to proceed without intervention under the False Claims Act, or the claim may be dismissed. The chances of reaching a settlement or succeeding at trial are much greater when the government intervenes.
Qui tam lawsuits are filed “under seal.” This means that the contents are not disclosed to the public. Under the False Claims Act a qui tam case is automatically sealed for 60 days. However, courts typically extend the time period these documents are sealed to give the government sufficient time to investigate the claim to determine whether it will join the case. Government investigations into qui tam lawsuits can take months or years depending on the size and complexity of the fraud.
A qui tam lawsuit will include a Complaint and supporting documents which provide the government with detailed information about the fraud. The lawsuit is filed under seal to allow the Justice Department time to investigate the allegations contained in the Complaint before the person or entity being accused of fraud is made aware of the qui tam case.
To speak with a qui tam lawyer, call Brent Wieand today at 1 (215) 666-7777.
Disclosure: This article provides a general description of qui tam litigation under the False Claims Act. It does not constitute legal advice and may not be current law. You should always consult a qui tam lawyer if you have questions about becoming a whistleblower or wish to file a qui tam lawsuit.