Florida False Claims Act: Interview With FCA Attorney Gary Farmer

This is the first segment of an interview with Tony Munter and Gary Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an experienced false claims act attorney who has practiced under the Florida False Claims Act. In the interview below (part one of five), Mr. Farmer compares some of the costs and benefits of the Federal and Florida False Claims Acts.  Tony Munter is not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction of Florida.

Tony: I’m interviewing False Claims Act attorneys in various states who are able to talk both about how filing the federal case might be working particularly well or not in their state, and of course the state’s False Claims Act as well as anything else that might be pertinent. So it’s a federal versus state comparison.

Gary: There are some pretty significant differences between the Florida Act and the Federal Act. For the most part, with the exception of one piece of language and that is really more about a tortured interpretation of that language and frankly some nefarious intent by our Attorney General when a recent amendment was made to our statute. I’ll get to that in a minute, but with the exception of that one portion of the statute, I think the Florida Act actually gives Relators greater rights and greater ability to control the destiny of a case than the Federal Act. That’s because when you look at Chapter 68 and it’s [section] 081 through 092. I forwarded to you a brief I filed in my battle with the Attorney General, which talks about this statutory provision. The Florida Act incorporates the rules of civil procedure into every case and the Federal Act does not do that. So procedurally it’s a case by case, judge by judge in some aspect.

In addition to providing the Florida rules of civil procedure, the Florida Act specifically says that if the state declines to intervene that the Relator has the right to proceed with the action. If the government reverses its course and decides after initially declining that it does want to intervene then the State doesn’t get to automatically intervene, it has to file a motion requesting leave of court to intervene to be allowed to intervene. The government must show good cause for being allowed to intervene and perhaps most importantly the Act specifically says that if intervention is granted that the State cannot do anything to the detriment of the private Relator.

Tony: Wow.
Gary: Yeah. So it’s much more an equal partnership I think under the Florida Act in that regard and it gives Relators greater protection when they decide to pursue a case after the government has declined.
Tony: So that puts you in a stronger position to negotiate with the defendant too I would assume, right? I mean is that a fair statement? You’re more in control.
Gary: Yes. I think it is. We have greater rights. They’re going to have to deal with us no matter what. And I think that combined with the fact that I think federal judges are sort of conditioned to follow the lead of the US attorney favors the State law. When a case is declined by the US Attorney I think federal judges have a hard time disavowing themselves of the notion that the case must not be a very good case, because the US attorney declined.
Tony: You don’t see that written down in any law books anywhere, but it is a fact that when the US Attorney declines a case, most of our experience is that judges are a little bit less forgiving towards plaintiffs. That’s the way I’ll put it.

Click here for Part 2

Click here for Part 3

Click here for Part 4

Click here for Part 5

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