Understanding Qui Tam Lawsuits


Qui Tam lawsuits are critical legal tools designed to expose fraud. This blog post will examine some of the intricacies of Qui Tam lawsuits, summarizing what they are, how they work, and their importance in rooting out abusive and deceptive conduct. 

What is a Qui Tam Lawsuit? 

The term “Qui Tam” is derived from the Latin phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur,” which translates to “he who brings a case on behalf of our lord the King, as well as for himself.” In essence, a Qui Tam lawsuit allows a private individual, known as a “relator” or whistleblower, to file a lawsuit on behalf of the government against entities that are defrauding the government. 

Qui Tam lawsuits are primarily governed by the False Claims Act (FCA), a federal law enacted during the Civil War to combat fraud by suppliers of goods to the Union Army. The FCA imposes liability on individuals and companies who defraud governmental programs and allows private individuals to assist in the recovery of the defrauded funds. 

How Does a Qui Tam Lawsuit Work? 

  1. Identifying the Fraud

The first step in a Qui Tam lawsuit is identifying the fraudulent activity. This could involve any form of deception, resulting in financial loss to the government. Common examples include overcharging for goods or services, billing for services not rendered, and falsifying records. 

  1. Filing the Complaint

Once the whistleblower identifies the fraud, they must file a complaint under seal in a federal district court. The complaint must be detailed and include all pertinent information and evidence of the fraud. Additionally, the whistleblower must provide a written disclosure statement of all material evidence and information to the government. 

  1. Government Investigation

After the complaint is filed, it remains under seal for at least 60 days, during which the government investigates the allegations. This period can be extended multiple times if necessary. The government reviews the evidence and decides whether to intervene and take over the case. 

  1. Government Decision

Following the investigation, the government can either intervene in the lawsuit or decline to intervene. If the government intervenes, it assumes primary responsibility for prosecuting the case, though the whistleblower remains a party to the suit. If the government declines to intervene, the whistleblower can proceed with the lawsuit independently. 

  1. Litigation and Resolution

Whether the government intervenes or not, the case proceeds to litigation. The process involves discovery, motions, and potentially a trial. Many Qui Tam cases are settled before reaching trial. If the case is successful, either through a settlement or a court judgment, the whistleblower may receive a percentage of the recovered funds as a reward for their role in exposing the fraud. 

Rewards and Protections for Whistleblowers 

Whistleblowers play a crucial role in uncovering fraud, and the FCA provides significant incentives and protections to encourage their participation. Whistleblowers may receive 15-30% of the recovered funds, depending on whether the government intervenes and the extent of the whistleblower’s contribution to the case. 

Additionally, the FCA includes provisions to protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. If an employer retaliates against an employee for filing a Qui Tam lawsuit, the employee may be entitled to reinstatement, double back pay, and compensation for any special damages, including litigation costs and attorney’s fees. 

The Importance of Qui Tam Lawsuits 

Qui Tam lawsuits are a powerful tool in combating fraud against the government. They help recover billions of dollars each year and deter fraudulent activities. By empowering individuals to act as whistleblowers, the government leverages private citizens’ insider knowledge to uncover and address fraud that might otherwise go undetected. 

Qui Tam lawsuits serve as a vital mechanism for protecting government funds and promoting accountability. Understanding the process and significance of these lawsuits is essential for potential whistleblowers and the public. If you suspect fraud against the government and are considering filing a Qui Tam lawsuit, it is crucial to seek experienced legal counsel to navigate the complexities of the FCA and maximize the chances of a successful outcome. 

The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information is for general informational purposes only. This information may not constitute the most up-to-date information. Any links provided are only for the convenience of the reader, A. Ferraris Law, PLLC and its members do not endorse the contents of the third-party references. 

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