Filing Actions and Lawsuits with the Qui Tam Lawyers Kohn, Kohn, and Colapinto
The team at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto law firm have been using the False Claims Act law qui tam provisions to protect the identity of our whistleblower clients for over 30 years. We help our clients safely and confidentially navigate the complex process of qui tam litigation, and guard them against any possible retaliation that may occur.
Qui Tam Action
A complaint, known as a qui tam action, must be confidentially filed under seal in federal district court following the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
A copy of the action with a written disclosure statement of substantially all material evidence and information, must be confidentially served on the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney for the district the action is filed.
In addition to filing a formal qui tam lawsuit in federal court, you must also comply with the other requirements of the law, including the following:
- The FCA whistleblower must file the complaint under “seal,” which is secret and not public. The complaint is strictly confidential when first submitted;
- If another qui tam relator files a claim based on the fraud you are alleging before submitting your qui tam suit, this disqualifies you from the qui tam process;
- The complaint is not served on any of the defendants. The whistleblower serves the complaint on the local U.S. Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney General. Until the court orders the “seal” removed, you must keep the fact that you filed a False Claims Act case strictly confidential. If the plaintiff violates the provisions of the seal, his or her complaint could be dismissed.
Furthermore, each state has its own rules and regulations regarding filing a state qui tam relator reward case. But to facilitate filing state qui tam cases, Congress amended the federal FCA to make it relatively easy to include state claims as part of a federal qui tam lawsuit.
What Does A Decision On “Intervention” Mean?
Once the complaint is filed in court and served on the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General, the United States is required to investigate the whistleblower’s information. After completing the investigation, the United States decides whether to “intervene” in the case.
Once the United States communicates its decision as to whether it will intervene to the presiding judge, the case is usually taken out of “seal” and filed on the public docket. Although the whistleblower is confidential when filing the qui tam lawsuit, once a case is out of seal, the whistleblower’s identity is on the public record. However, for a good cause, a whistleblower can ask a Court to keep his or her identity confidential.
If the United States “intervenes” in the case, the United States takes over the litigation and proceeds to prosecute the fraudster. The whistleblower remains a party in the case and can fully participate, but the United States conducts the litigation. When the United States intervenes, it generally means that a case will have a favorable resolution. The government has validated the allegations raised by the whistleblower and is willing to spend resources fighting the defendant.
If intervention is “declined,” the whistleblower has a right to proceed with the lawsuit. Litigating a case after a declination is usually very difficult, as defendants will often aggressively fight the case. Also, a whistleblower may have to pay court costs if they lose the case. There is also the possibility of sanctions for misconduct or for filing a frivolous claim.
However, the qui tam provision that permits the whistleblower to pursue a case, even if the United States declines prosecution, is among the most critical rules in the False Claims Act. It helps to keep the government officials honest.
How Long Does It Take For The Resolution of A False Claims Act Case?
It is not unusual for qui tam cases to remain under seal for an extended period, even for multiple years.
The government is typically required to file periodic reports with the district court explaining the reasons for extending the seal. The case is taken out of seal once the government decides whether or not to intervene and take over the whistleblower’s qui tam case. Then the case may proceed out of the seal, like any other civil case.
Some cases resolve relatively quickly while other cases move to full litigation and may continue for several years before final decision or settlement.
Whistleblower Protection for False Claims Act Whistleblowers
Section 3730(h) of the False Claims Act states that any employee who is discharged, demoted, harassed, or otherwise retaliated against for taking actions to promote the purposes behind the FCA, can file an employment discrimination claim in federal court.
This action can be presented as part of a qui tam reward case or as a stand-alone cause of action. The law provides for a jury trial and full “make whole” relief, including reinstatement, double back pay, and compensation for any special damages, including litigation costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Qui Tam Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for a qui tam action is either six years after the date from when a fraud was committed; or three years beyond the date which the United States should be aware of the “material facts,” – but this should not exceed 10 years. The statute of limitations for a False Claims Act whistleblower retaliation case is three years.
In Cochise Consultancy Inc. v. United States, ex rel. Hunt, Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto presented an amicus curiae in a case filed to the Supreme Court on behalf of a qui tam whistleblower. Justices unanimously ruled in favor of whistleblowers, finding that a ten-year statute of limitations is applicable to whistleblower-initiated claims when under specific conditions. This decision was a significant victory for whistleblowers under the False Claims Act.
File a Qui Tam Action With Qui Tam Lawyers Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto
The qui tam False Claims Act provisions cover relators filing qui tam lawsuits and prohibits retaliation for filing a qui tam action. Every law has its own rules and regulations governing the filing of a qui tam suit or a request for a whistleblower reward. These procedures are very technical. Failure to file a timely claim following the specific procedures outlined in each law can result in an otherwise qualified whistleblower losing his or her claim to a reward. If you think you have a qui tam case, contact one of our qui tam lawyers for a confidential case review.
To get started, contact one of our qui tam lawyers to see if we can help you.