The process for filing a False Claims Act case involves at least two documents: an initial disclosure to the government and a complaint filed under seal in court. However, preparing an initial disclosure and complaint is an extensive and involved process requiring the counsel and whistleblower, called a Relator, in this case, to work extensively over whatever facts may be involved. For more information, or for help with filing a False Claims Act claim, speak with a seasoned Washington DC attorney today.
What is a Disclosure?
The initial disclosure provides an opportunity for the Relator to establish their status as an original source of the material and allegations in a complaint. One of the ways that a Relator can overcome the public disclosure bar, which otherwise can disrupt their ability to collect an award, is to claim original source status. To accomplish this, the Relator would provide the government with information regarding the allegations made in the complaint prior to filing the complaint. With this in mind, most people file a disclosure prior to filing a complaint. In addition, the law also requires a disclosure of “substantially” all the evidence a whistleblower has in the case to the government upon filing the complaint.
Everything the whistleblower knows about the allegations should be included in the initial disclosure. There are some issues with respect to privileged material. If the whistleblower was in contact with counsel for the defendants, all parties may be required to put such evidence and information to the side and conduct a review and submit that separately for review by the government. The whistleblowers cannot base their allegations in the complaint as being an original source if they do not provide appropriate information prior to filing the complaint.
Unique Aspects of Filing a False Claims Act Case
The process for filing a False Claims Act case is different than most civil actions, including because it must be filed under seal. Most complaints are a matter of public record from inception and are not filed under seal. Of course, this is a requirement the Relator and an attorney must be careful not to violate. A willful violation of the seal provisions of the False Claims Act can be meant that the Relator would not be able to collect an award.
Importance of Filing Under Seal
The importance of filing under seal is to provide the government with an opportunity to investigate the allegations without the public knowing about it. There has been some push from Relators to keep matters sealed once the case is dismissed. However, because the initial purpose of the seal is to provide the government with an opportunity to investigate the case, the case is usually unsealed after the government finishes its investigation.
Courts Attitude Toward Extending a Seal
Some courts and judges have gotten less willing to extend the seal and have been more aggressive in demanding that the government demonstrate its need to continue an investigation of a case under seal. Some public organizations do not like the seal because it is keeping matters from public view, at least temporarily, and have opposed it. Nonetheless, the seal period has also provided benefits both to Relators and even to defendants. When a Relator files a case in good faith and they could potentially be the subject of retaliation, it can protect them at least for some period of time while the government investigates the claim.
Seeking Help with the Process of Filing a False Claims Act Case
One of the main reasons a person should hire an attorney is to know their legal rights. When filing a False Claims Act, Whistleblowers may feel attacked or pressured from the company accused of violating the False Claims Act. Learning what kind of case the whistleblower may have and how to file it appropriately can help to protect their rights A lawyer in the District of Columbia can help you navigate this process from the beginning of submitting a claim. It is important to know your rights throughout the process for filing a False Claims Act case. For more information, contact an attorney today.