False Claims Act Civil Litigation Lawsuits
Our whistleblower plaintiff attorneys explain what you need to know
Taking legal action in cases involving the False Claims Act can be overwhelming, especially if you become aware of wrongdoing by your employer or another company. Even knowing whether you (known as a “relator” in these types of whistleblower cases) can file a civil lawsuit (often referred to as a “qui tam” action) might not be clear. That’s why it’s critical that you consult with an experienced lawyer familiar with this area of the law.
Experienced whistleblower attorneys at Brewer & Pritchard, P.C. in Houston have been helping professionals in Texas and nationwide deal with complex legal cases for more than 30 years. As a result, we can advise you on the legal options available to you and recommend the best course of action.
False Claims Act lawsuits need to be precise. There’s little room for error when filing these types of civil lawsuits, especially since the defendant will have its own team of attorneys defending their actions. We don’t take anything for granted at Brewer & Pritchard, P.C. We take the time to properly investigate each case. We’re mindful of all the applicable deadlines. We anticipate possible challenges we might encounter while navigating our way through the legal system. Our approach involves focusing on one primary goal – to give you the greatest opportunity for success.
How do I know if I have a case?
False Claims Act lawsuits (also known as “qui tam” actions) can be filed for many different reasons. You may have a case if you become aware of fraudulent activity involving the federal government, especially in cases involving healthcare fraud and government contractor fraud. Certain states, including Texas, also have state false claims laws which allow individuals to report fraudulent activity involving misuse of state funds. Texas false claims law is specific to fraud against Medicaid – a state-administered program involving federal and state funds.
Many False Claims Act cases involve fraudulently billing the government for services not performed or goods not provided. Double billing or submitting false payroll records for employees who don’t exist are other common examples of False Claims Act violations.
Other times, cases involve bribery or financial kickbacks from companies or individuals in exchange for lucrative government contracts or to induce prescriptions or orders for durable medical equipment. In each case, there may be physical evidence of wrongdoing, including:
- Banking records
- Duplicate receipts
- Fraudulent receipts or evidence of kickback payments
- Emails or letters detailing fraudulent transactions
- Details of meetings related to such cases
These are just a few examples of evidence of wrongdoing involving the misappropriation of government funds. There are often many other ways – including by federal investigators – to build strong legal cases involving violations of the False Claims Act. Investigations are conducted by the government agency directly affected, along with an independent investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Whatever type of case you’re dealing with, talking with an experienced whistleblower plaintiff attorney can often help you better understand the law and the legal options available to you in your particular case.
Who can file a False Claims Act lawsuit?
The False Claims Act created in 1863 was clear about who can file a False Claims Act lawsuit. The short answer? Anyone. The main requirement is the person who takes legal action must have direct knowledge of fraudulent government activity.
In most instances, False Claims Act cases are initiated by people with inside information such as current or former employees who become aware of illegal activity through the normal course of their job. Private contractors or subcontractors also often file False Claims Act lawsuits. However, whoever reports such fraudulent activity must not be directly responsible or involved in criminal activity.
In theory, any private citizen can initiate a False Claims Act investigation involving fraudulent government activity, as long as they can provide direct evidence (bills, receipts, etc.) of such activity. Even so, such cases can be quite complex. That’s why it’s always best to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
Do I have to reveal my identity?
Whistleblowers who report violations of the False Claims Act must remain anonymous until their False Claims Act case is “unsealed” by the court. Under the False Claims Act, a whistleblower’s identity should not be revealed to the target of the investigation (the defendant) since the complaint filed by the whistleblower is “under seal” during the initial investigation stage.
However, when the whistleblower’s lawsuit is officially served on the defendant, the lawsuit is no longer “under seal” and the whistleblower’s identity must be revealed to the defendant. In the event the lawsuit does not go forward, the lawsuit normally is still unsealed at which point the whistleblower’s identity is no longer protected. If this happens, it’s important for whistleblowers to be prepared for any retaliatory actions by the defendant, especially if the whistleblower is an employee who works for the defendant. Also, prospective employers may decline to hire a person if they know the person previously filed a whistleblower lawsuit.
This is why it’s important to consult with a lawyer to find out whether your identity can remain confidential and not be revealed to the defendant. An experienced attorney can also assist with helping to minimize any risks associated with your identity being revealed, including gathering evidence in support of your case in the event that you are wrongfully terminated or face other disciplinary action.
Who compensates me in such cases?
Whistleblowers who report violations of the False Claims Act are eligible to receive a portion of the money recovered through a settlement or judgment against the person or company involved in defrauding the Government if the whistleblower is responsible for exposing fraud or corruption. The portion that the whistleblower is entitled to receive is set forth in the False Claims Act. If there is no settlement or judgment against the wrongdoers, the whistleblower is not eligible to receive compensation.
Exactly how much money a whistleblower receives in financial compensation from the federal government varies from case to case. However, whistleblowers are eligible to receive up to a maximum of 30% of the total amount of money recovered against the wrongdoer.
Just because a whistleblower is eligible to receive financial compensation in a False Claims Act case does not mean they will automatically be paid the money they rightfully deserve. There are many reasons why this might happen, including if there’s debate over who was the first person to report fraudulent activity. That’s due to the first-to-file rule under the False Claims Act, which means that only one whistleblower (the first one) can be compensated for reporting a specific allegation of government fraud or corruption.
Learn more about your legal options. Contact us.
The stakes are high in many False Claims Act civil lawsuits. In some cases, whistleblowers have received thousands or even millions of dollars for successfully bringing cases of government corruption or fraud. Your professional career could be on the line, simply for exposing wrongdoing.
This is why we want to help. We understand the seriousness and the urgency of your legal matter. We realize you’re taking a risk by taking a stand. Our knowledgeable whistleblower plaintiff attorneys can advise you on the legal options available to you and the best course of action in your particular case.
Learn more about how we can help you with your False Claims Act lawsuit. Contact our law firm. Fill out our online inquiry form and schedule a confidential appointment. We respect your privacy and will do everything we can to protect your rights.