Qui Tam Cases Versus Other Kinds of Civil Claims

A Qui Tam lawyer talks about what makes Qui Tam cases different from other types of civil cases, and why you shouldn’t go to the press first when claiming a case under the False Claims Act.

Initially the case is filed under seal and the Plaintiff generally gets interviewed by the Department of Justice. Technically I don’t believe that would be called a hearing as in a hearing since it is not in court or usually under oath. Obviously if it goes beyond that, if it goes beyond investigation and or settlement by the government and it goes to litigation then there could be more a court appearance situation for the individual plaintiff.

Will I Have To Testify In Court If I File A Qui Tam Claim?

You may, but generally in most cases are resolved prior to an individual plaintiff testifying. However that is a possibility.

Why Should I File A Qui Tam Case Instead of Just Going Straight To The Press?

Well one can go to the press later, but going to the press makes it more difficult to assert one’s rights under the False Claims Act. There is a public disclosure bar and to overcome a public disclosure bar generally one has to be the original source of the information.

The public disclosure bar has been weakened a bit under amendments to the False Claims Act, but it is still a concern. It is unlikely to help the case to go to the press early, but it is likely to hurt the case if there is any information about it in the press prior to filing it and certainly while the case is under seal you simply can not go to the press at all.

It may make sense go to the press later and that may be a valuable thing to do at some point along the line but until you determine what your rights are under the False Claims Act or other whistleblower laws it is advisable to wait.

What Is Unique About Qui Tam Cases As Opposed To Other Kinds Of Civil Suits?

In most civil suits the standing to sue is based on an individual’s relationship to the harm. If you are the person with an injured knee you may have the right to sue. If you are directly related to somebody who was hurt and you depended on that person for your livelihood or something or there is some great emotional distress then you can sue. The Qui Tam provisions allow an individual to sue on behalf of the government for something that the individual knows about. That person is not directly related to the government other than its our government but the person does not have to have any personal harm suffered or be directly related to the personal harm to sue. The person is suing on behalf of and to obtain money for the government’s damage as a Qui Tam relator. I think that really is an unusual if not unique right under the law.

Do Qui Tam Claims Have To Target A Specific Industry?

No, a relator doesn’t have to target a specific industry. A False Claims Act relator filing a Qui Tam Action has to have information. One is generally only going to have the type of information necessary to file a False Claims Act case when working in the industry they are making their career. It is very difficult to have that type of inside information, that type of valuable information unless it comes to somebody by virtue of working within that industry.

It isn’t a matter of a relator targeting a particular industry. It is a matter of a plaintiff’s career being involved in a particular industry and finding information related to that industry that turns out implicates somebody or some company in defrauding the government.

Can a Qui Tam Fraud Claim and Whistleblower Protection Suits Be Pushed through Simultaneously?

Yes, depending on the particular facts. That’s usually a good idea to do within the False Claims Act. Most states also have anti-retaliation provisions, I believe. Generally, within the federal and the state False Claims Acts, you can sue for retaliation at the same time and under seal as you sue for the underlying fraud claim against the government. The Dodd-Frank actions allow you to sue for securities fraud and also pursue an anti-retaliation action as well. If the retaliation is not related to the underlying facts of your qui tam action, that can get difficult and make for separate actions, but generally, yes, it is possible to do that.