Filing a Qui Tam Suit

The Department of Justice handles Qui Tam cases very seriously. Most of the cases filed involve extraordinarily severe allegations, usually involving a significant amount of money.

Only about 700 or so cases under the federal False Claims Act are filed every year. Some portion of those is duplicative in the sense that one person may file about the same fraud as another person. The Relator could find they have a case out of seal against a company where four people filed against the same company.

Most jurisdictions make it difficult to file a Qui Tam suit without an attorney. Attorneys are very reluctant to bring cases unless they see real merit and damages in them. This creates an automatic vetting process to this so that by the time the Department of Justice gets an opportunity to review a case, they understand that there is a likelihood that there is something substantial for them to investigate. For help with filing a Qui Tam suit, contact an experienced attorney.

How Qui Tam Suits Start and Are Prosecuted

Qui Tam suits can really only be initiated one way, and that is by an individual filing a case under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows for the government to file a case itself, but the Qui Tam provisions specifically refer to the right of an individual to file a case under the False Claims Act.

A Qui Tam suit requires an individual whistleblower to file a case under seal so that the government can investigate it. The case can be prosecuted in one of two ways. The government gets the first bite to investigate the claim and determine if it wants to intervene and take over the prosecution of the case. The government can take over the entire prosecution of the case or take over part of the case. When the government takes over the claim, it can take over with respect to all defendants or just one.

If the government declines to take over the case, the person who filed the case has the right to pursue it on their own, but they are not obligated to go forward and prosecute the case themselves.

Investigator Agencies Involved in the Case

The Department of Justice and/or the local U.S. Attorney’s Office in the jurisdiction where the case is filed determines how to investigate and pursue a case.

As a practical matter, the Department of Justice will reach out to agencies of the federal government for the expertise and for investigators who have some experience dealing with the regulations within the bureaucracy of that particular agency. For example, if they are filing a False Claims Act case that involves significant allegations of defense contractor fraud, it is likely that an investigator from one of the armed services agencies or the Department of Defense will be assigned to the case.

If a case involves some kind of health care fraud, it is likely that an investigator from the Department of Health and Human Services will be assigned to investigate. Once the facts of the case are presented to the Department of Justice, it is their decision as to what agency they may reach out to if any to ask about the facts of the case and obtain personnel to investigate the case.

What Information is Not Grounds for a Qui Tam Suit?

Privileged information will not be grounds for a False Claims Act Qui Tam suit. If a relator wants to come forward with information that is based on an attorney-client privilege discussion, they are going to have to find another way of making the allegation. Theoretically, the facts are not privileged, but the communications are. In practice, using information that is arguably subject to privilege is going to be an extremely difficult way to form the basis of a False Claims Act case. Usually, a whistleblower has information that is not privileged, even if they also have information that is privileged.

Benefits of Obtaining a Lawyer When Filing a Qui Tam Suit

Many jurisdictions will require that a whistleblower filing False Claims Act case be represented by counsel, because they are not filing their own allegations per se, but filing a case on behalf of the government that is the real party in interest. In addition, there several reasons why a person needs an attorney in handling a serious matter under the False Claims Act.

Filing a Qui Tam suit is complicated litigation, which involves serious defendant(s) and dealings with the Department of Justice. It involves an area of major concern to the whistleblower personally and professionally, and that can be difficult to grapple with in terms of issues that upset them personally (such as sometimes getting fired or having their job threatened as well as being professionally disgusted by the defendant’s conduct).

It may take some time to get the facts together, in addition to the facts of an underlying fraud case, and determine how to present and explain the underlying fraud so that government lawyers can understand right away. Call today for more information about how an attorney could assist you when filing a Qui Tam suit.