However, there is a literal meaning of the word “qui tam.” “Qui Tam” is short for the Latin phrase: “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur.” The Latin phrase is interpreted in English as : “[he] who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.”
What is a Qui Tam Lawsuit?
A qui tam lawsuit is a whistleblower lawsuit brought under the Federal False Claims Act and/or State False Claims Acts. Essentially, the whistleblower files a case on behalf of the government. Another way to think about the law is that the False Claims Acts provides the whistleblower with standing to sue on behalf of the United States and/or individual States.
Lets use a lawsuit regarding a car accident to explain the differences between regular civil litigation and qui tam litigation. In this example, the plaintiff (the individual who was hit by a car) files a complaint against the defendant (the individual driving the car who hit the plaintiff’s car). The plaintiff or individual who was hit, suffered some sort of harm. Usually there is physical harm and harm to the individual’s property. The action of being hit and suffering damages provides the plaintiff with “Standing” to sue the defendant.
By contrast, in qui tam cases, the whistleblower is not harmed by the defendant’s conduct. Rather, the government is harmed by defendant’s conduct. The whistleblower merely witnesses the harm. The False Claims Act provides the whistleblower with standing to sue on behalf of the government.
Who can file a Qui Tam Lawsuit?
Any individual with knowledge or evidence of fraud, waste and abuse can file a qui tam lawsuit. The whistleblower can be an insider, former employee, consultant, competitor, or simply just have knowledge.
The knowledge can be in the form of first-hand testimony. Preferrably the whistleblower would have documents to support the qui tam allegations. That said, sometimes it is difficult to obtain documentary evidence. Therefore, credible testimony as to the fraudulent conduct and where the evidence exists may suffice.
Moreover, a whistleblower should not go outside the scope of his/her employment to obtain evidence. Rather, the whistleblower should come across the evidence in the ordinary course of business.
Whistleblower Rewards and Protections
Thankfully there are incentives and protections involved in filing a qui tam case. The incentive comes in the form of a monetary award. If a qui tam case is successful, the whistleblower will get a portion of the recovery. The percentage depends on several factors and ranges between 15-30% of the total amount the government recovered. This can amount to millions of dollars.
In addition to incentives, whistleblower protections built into the False Claims Acts. The specific provision is 31 U.S. Code § 3730(h). In general, an individual who is retaliated against for reporting fraud can file a False Claims Act retaliation claim. If the whistleblower is successful, he/she can be entitled to reinstatement, two times back pay, and other compensation.
The Qui Tam Lawsuit Process
First, the whistleblower should meet with an experienced lawyer to discuss the evidence and theory of the False Claims Act case. Additionally, considering the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit, the lawyer should assist the whistleblower in evaluating the appropriate way to report fraud.
Second, the qui tam lawyer should draft the complaint and file it under seal in the appropriate jurisdiction. The attorney then serves the complaint and any supplemental relevant evidence on the government.
Third, the government interviews the whistleblower and begins investigating the case. The case remains under seal the entire time the government is investigating. The investigation can last from 6 months to 2 years. That said, the investigation can last to over 10 years.
Finally, after the government completes its investigation, it makes an intervention decision. The case comes out from under seal after the government makes its intervention decision.
Qui Tam Lawyers
We understand that coming across fraud and considering options to report fraud is unpleasant position to be in. We also understand that the employee is scared and about to step into the vast unknown.
Whistleblowers need to find the right qui tam specialist to serve as a guide through this difficult process. The lawyer should have a specific skills and temperment. Some of the things to look for in a lawyer are:
- experience with whistleblower specific laws
- works on a contingent fee basis (this means the lawyer works for free and pays for all out-of-pocket expenses, they only time the lawyer makes money or gets reimbursed is if the case is successful)
- has spoken or lectured about the whistleblower laws (i.e., is good in front of a large group of people)
- is hard-working and answers your requests to speak
- has a trust relationship with government prosecutors
- educated or have the ability to think through difficult legal issues and theories
- can simply “get along” with people (this skill is often overlooked, but is necessary in order to handle cases with multiple parties involved, including, the government, agencies, defendants, defense counsel, co-counsel, and most importantly you)
For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced lawyer:
- Call: (484) 416-2636
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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