Since 1991, my Miami law firm has represented individuals in medical fraud claims against doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical manufacturers, as well as Qui Tam or whistle blower cases.
What is a Qui Tam Case?
The law is complex, but it essentially states that any person who “knowingly submits” a false claims to the government either to get money or property or to avoid having to pay money that would be due is liable for double the government’s damages plus a penalty of $2,000 for each false claim. Since 1863, the FCA has been amended many times.
A suit filed by an individual on behalf of the government is known as a “qui tam” action, and the person bringing the action is referred to as a “Relator.” In 1986, damages were changed from double to treble (three times) raising the penalties from $2,000 to $10,000. Since 1986 the FCA has been amended three more times.
In order for a claim to qualify as a False Claim, it must be knowingly submitted to the government with the following:
- Actual knowledge;
- Deliberate ignorance of the truth or falsity of the information, or
- Reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the information.
The Definition of a False Claim
A valid False Claims Act case includes any kind of fraudulent demand that is made directly to the Federal Government or to a contractor, grantee, or other recipient when the money is to be spent on the government’s behalf not including tax claims under the Internal Revenue Code.
Step One: Filing the Complaint
The FCA allows private persons to file suit for violations of the FCA on behalf of the Federal Government. A qui tam complaint must be filed with the Federal court under seal making it not available to the public. The Qui Tam complaint, along with a written disclosure containing all the relevant information known to the relator, must be served to the U.S. Attorney for the judicial district where the Qui Tam is filed and to the Attorney General of the United States. For example, in Miami, all Qui Tam cases are filed in the Southern District of Florida and a copy is also provided to the U.S. Attorney of Florida.
Step Two: The Government Investigation
Once a qui tam complaint is filed and served initially upon the appropriate U.S. Attorney, the Department of Justice has 60 days to investigate the allegations contained in the complaint. Often times, due to the complexity of the allegations contained in the complaint, the government cannot complete its investigation in 60 days, and can seek extensions of the seal period while it continues its investigation.
Step Three: The Government Accepts the Case-Intervening
If, after investigating the allegations contained in the complaint, the Government decides to prosecute take the case on against the defendant, it must notify the Judge. When this happens it is called “intervening.”
Step Four: Settling or Dismissing a Qui Tam Case
This means, that the Department of Justice’s lawyers are able to settle the case and/or they can decide to simply dismiss it at any time; even over a Realtor’s objection. However, if the Relator objects to a settlement, the judge must provide the Relator an opportunity for a court hearing to determine if the proposed settlement is fair.
Likewise, if the Relator wants to settle or dismiss his or her qui tam action, it must also obtain the government’s permission. Under certain circumstances, the government and the defendant can ask the Judge to limit a Relator’s participation in the litigation.
Step Five: Cash Reward to the Whistleblower
In qui tam action litigations where the government declined the case, the relator’s reward is increased to 25 to 30% of the recovery.
There are certain circumstances when a reward may be reduced by the Court, but never to less than 10%. However, if the Court finds that the relator actually planned or participated in the fraud, the Court may reduce the award without limitation.
In addition to a cash reward, whistleblowers are also entitled to be repaid any of their own legal fees and case-related costs by the defendant.
Step Six: What Kind of Claims are Prohibited under the FCA?
- The Relator was convicted of criminal conduct arising from his or her role in the fraud.
- Another qui tam concerning the exact same conduct already has been filed. We recommend that is very important to always be the first to file a potential whistle blower case.
- The government already is a party to a case concerning the same conduct.
- The information has already been disclosed to the public through another case or through the media.
Our whistle blower claims lawyers in Florida are very passionate about assisting people in filing Qui Tam cases against individuals and businesses that have bilked and misappropriated our taxpayer’s dollars. If you are aware of a potential False Claim, it is important that you discuss your matter with an experienced lawyer. It is important to be the first and only person to file the claim before it becomes public record.
If you believe that you have a potential whistleblower claim, please email me or call our office today for a free initial consultation at 1-866-597-4529. We investigate cases across the country and work closely with the Department of Justice to ensure that our clients receive the full amount of any compensation they are entitled to. Most importantly, we want to protect all of our hard earned taxpayer dollars.