Legal Standing in Whistleblower Cases

Qui tam is the short term used for a longer Latin phrase, which translates to, “[he] who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.” The phrase comes from the Middle Ages, when in fact in Middle England, it was possible to sue for the king and enforce criminal actions on behalf of the king. In the United States, it is established as a right on behalf of the government or suing on behalf of the state. Those who file under the False Claims Act are seen as having legal standing in whistleblower cases, allowing them to pursue cases on behalf of the government. If you want to know more about the legal basis for qui tam cases or you wish to file an action, speak with an experienced DC whistleblower attorney today.

What is Legal Standing?

Usually in the American legal system, in order to sue for something, a person must have what is called standing, which can also be defined as the right to sue. Usually, that right comes from having been personally harmed or directly related to someone personally harmed.

This right can also come to a plaintiff by their having been physically injured or injured in business,—for instance, being a victim of an unfulfilled contract. These are ways in which an individual could be the subject of a lawsuit or the plaintiff in a lawsuit.

It is not that individuals have legal standing in whistleblower cases. Instead, qui tam suits allow for an exception to the necessity of standing when one is suing on behalf of the government. It is important to understand that this right extends only to a few laws in the United States.

Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws allow individuals to file actions and obtain a reward when the government is successful. For example, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission has a whistleblower reward program, but technically speaking it does not provide a qui tam action.

A person can file with the Securities and Exchange Commission and attempt to obtain a reward if the organization pursues the action. There are similar laws with the Internal Revenue Service whistleblower program and with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission program. There is even one being established for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, none of these actions include the right of an individual whistleblower to go to court and file a case on behalf of the government.

Seek Legal Counsel to Discuss Your Legal Standing in a Whistleblower Case

The law that does allow for a qui tam action is the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows the government to sue if it has information on its own that makes sense for the government to pursue a case against a defendant of false claims presented to the government or fraud committed against the government. The law also includes the so-called qui tam provisions which allow an individual to sue under these circumstances.

They are modified in the sense that, at first, the government gets the right to investigate the allegations presented by the relator or plaintiff-relator. They are modified in the sense that the government gets what amounts to a first look at the allegations presented by this plaintiff.

The plaintiff cannot just bring the case to court and pursue it initially. However, what makes it a qui tam action is that should the government decide not to pursue the case, the plaintiff-relator can choose to pursue the action.  The False Claims Act established this right under federal law and now many states have also established similar provisions in their own False Claims Acts. If an individual wants to know more about the False Claims Act and legal standing in whistleblower cases, they should consult a knowledgeable lawyer in Washington DC that could answer their questions.