A qui tam case is a type of lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act (FCA). The person or entity who brings a qui tam lawsuit is called a “relator.” Relators are sometimes called “whistleblowers.” In a qui tam procedure, the relator initiates the action on behalf of the government and himself. If a relator successfully brings a qui tam lawsuit, the FCA allows the relator to receive up to a 30% share of the money that he or she recovers – depending on whether the Government intervenes in the lawsuit.
What is qui tam?
"Qui tam" is a Latin term that dates back to 14th century England, when King Edward II would financially reward people for reporting government fraud. The term means "who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.”
In the United States, the laws surrounding qui tam date back to the 1600s. The FCA — sometimes referred to as the "Lincoln Law" — was set in stone in 1863 to deal with military contracting fraud during the Civil War. This legal concept is still relevant to this day.
How do relators initiate qui tam lawsuits?
The FCA allows the government or individuals to take legal action against companies who they allege committed fraud. Relators in the U.S. have an incentive to file qui tam lawsuits. In order to file such a lawsuit, you must provide evidence that fraud took place, including the people who you believed were involved. These types of lawsuits are filed in federal court "under seal," which means that they are kept confidential while the allegations are investigated. Relators must be represented by a lawyer; the qui tam statute does not permit a person to maintain a qui tam suit “pro se.”
What’s the difference in a qui tam lawsuit and a retaliation lawsuit?
Many times, a person experiences retaliation when he or she brings information to light about fraud against the government. The False Claims Act provides important protection against retaliation. In order to file a retaliation qui tam lawsuit, you must be an:
- Agent, contractor, former employee, or other qualified person.
- Local or state government employee or entity directly impacted by the fraud.
Important Requirements for False Claims Act cases :
- Hire a lawyer who is experienced in handling False Claims Act cases. Your lawyer will guide you through the process of making a pre-suit disclosure and preparing the qui tam suit papers.
- The relator must disclose to the Government what he or she knows about the fraud before filing suit. This should only be done on the relator’s behalf by his or her attorney.
- The relator must take care to not violate the “seal” of the qui tam suit such as by posting information about it online. Generally, the fraud must not be publicly disclosed in the news media or in a federal investigation the Government intervenes.
- Report the fraud before anyone else. If someone else reported the same fraud before you did, then you probably won't be able to be a qui tam relator.
- Report the fraud within the applicable statute of limitations.
- Have direct knowledge of the fraud.
What should I expect from my qui tam lawsuit?
After a relator successfully files a lawsuit, an investigation will follow and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) determines whether or not it will intervene. The government intervenes in only 25% of qui tam cases.
Once the Government decides whether to intervene, the court and parties are notified and the case is unsealed and served on the defendants. The case then proceeds much like any other civil lawsuit.
Get an experienced lawyer on your side
Qui tam lawsuits are complex. You must have a lawyer who knows this area of the law in order to bring a qui tam. Your lawsuit will likely get dismissed if you don't know what to look for or how to prepare. At Brewer, Pritchard & Buckley, PC, we understand how these lawsuits work and we have decades of combined legal experience dealing with them. We will meet with you confidentially and review the details of the suspected fraud and help you decide whether to file a lawsuit. Once we both decide that a lawsuit makes sense, we'll help you get the necessary documentation and evidence to file suit.
If you have evidence of fraud against the Government, please don't wait to contact us. Your call or email will be treated with confidentiality and is subject to the attorney-client privilege – even if you or we decide not to go forward. If we both decide to proceed, we’ll present you with an attorney-client agreement to spell out the scope of our representation.
Contact us online or call us today.