Types of False Claims Act Cases Filed in Hawaii

This page is a two-part series on the Hawaii whistleblower laws. Tony Munter speaks with attorney Thomas Grande about the Hawaii False Claims Act and the origins of this state legislation. Click here for Part 1.
*Tony Munter is not licensed to practice in Hawaii

Tony:

What type of cases do you typically see in Hawaii? Is it the same as in the rest of the United States?

Thomas:

The types of cases being brought here parallel what has been brought and what is being brought on the mainland. Early on, there were more defense-oriented false claims act cases, then healthcare assumed a much more prominent role then ultimately drug sales assumed a very prominent role.

Our cases have followed that trend. We’ve had some early False Claims Act cases involving military installations. One of our cases was the first False Claims Act case for fraud on a foreign military base. That was a case in Korea that involved fraudulent installation of fire protection systems.

Thomas:

Most of our cases involve healthcare and false claims submitted by hospitals and doctors. However, we are seeing a trend toward international cases simply because of our physical location. I would suspect that we’re going to be getting more international cases going forward.

Tony:

You don’t hear that often, but that is interesting. Has the state had any large recoveries?

Thomas:

The state has used the statute effectively in conjunction with multi-state actions brought by

qui tam

plaintiffs and state attorneys general. The largest settlement involved average wholesale price litigation, which was for $80M. That type of recovery is rare in Hawaii. Most of our cases are substantially less than that.

Tony:

That’s a huge number for a state False Claims Act case to generate. Hawaii is a relatively smaller or less populous I should say state. Since that’s a really large recovery I would think on a statewide level.

Thomas:

I agree.

Tony:

I take it you would say the state is working pretty well with the Attorney General’s office supporting these cases?

Thomas:

We have established a very close working relationship with both the Attorney General’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  Because we are a small jurisdiction, we end up working with the same attorneys over and over. That fosters and promotes collegiality and cooperation that is very prevalent between the U.S. Attorney’s office and the state Attorney General’s office. We see a level of cooperation that you don’t often see in other locales.

Again because of our physical isolation and the fact that everyone knows each other and we need to and do work together very, very well cooperatively.

I think one of the things that our cooperative relationship fosters is that we tend to bring cases to the feds and the states earlier than in other locations. I would rather bring a case earlier prefilling and have them assist us in working up the case rather than wait until the case is absolutely ready to go, lay it on their table and find out there are some wrinkles that we should have considered. Our local US Attorney’s office and our local state Attorney General’s office have been very, very cooperative in meeting with us and in conducting pre-filing investigations.

Tony:

Oh, that’s good to hear. Do you have any practice tips, other than obtaining local counsel, which would seem to be not only required by statute but it seems in Hawaii particularly, like a very good idea.

Thomas:

I would not recommend that anyone try to come here and file on their own without having local counsel. I’m not saying that for self-serving purposes.  You need to have a local presence.

Tony:

It’s interesting that there are other jurisdictions which are beginning to pick up on that including here in DC where they basically have put more resources to the US Attorney’s office for these types of cases over the last four or five years. They are at least are putting out the signals that they want to, go in that direction. That had not been my experience, previously say ten years ago.

But it does seem like offices across the country are starting to get the idea that they should look at cases prior to filing. It sounds like Hawaii is a little ahead of everybody on that regard.

Thomas:

I’ve practiced on the mainland and the difference is night and day frankly. There are you know, great attorneys in every jurisdiction who’ve developed very good relationships with the local US Attorney’s office or with the Department of Justice. But in my experience, it’s not the same level of cooperation that we have here. I’m not saying it’s unique, but I am saying that the in terms of the nature of our practice, we’re able to do that and we’re able to get a better product.

Tony:

It’s unusual I’ll say that.

Thomas:

In many locations on the mainland, there is still a fair amount of suspicion of the Relator’s bar. Experienced counsel makes sure to eliminate that suspicion by being well prepared and handling our cases in the way that the local offices want them handled.

Tony:

That makes a lot of sense. Is there anything else you would like to say about practicing False Claims act Cases? Most of us who practice this feel pretty passionate about doing the right thing.

Thomas:

I tell people that part of my practice is prosecuting doctors and hospitals who steal from the old and the poor. It’s white hat litigation. It puts you in a position of knowing that you’re doing something that’s going to be benefitting the public good and hopefully benefitting your client.

But it’s exciting work and I think it’s work that any attorney who does employment law or any attorney who does civil litigation can do.  it’s an area to be looked at as a nice compliment to civil practice.


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