If you are considering a lawsuit under the False Claims Act, you may be curious as to how these lawsuits typically progress. Whistleblower lawsuits are a unique subset of civil litigation and follow a unique path to resolution. For this reason, it is vital to work with an attorney possessing the keen understanding of qui tam laws and how their procedural guidelines are applied to causes of action under the False Claims Act.
Getting Started With Your Claim
All cases get started with the filing of a complaint. However, before that can take place, you and your attorney must meet to discuss the key components of your allegations.
Under the False Claims Act, a plaintiff can only advance a claim of fraud if that plaintiff learned of the misconduct through personal experience or firsthand knowledge. Claims that are based on information already disseminated through public filings or the news media will be dismissed – even if the whistleblower never read those documents. Unfortunately, courts are strict about this rule and the defendant will undoubtedly raise this defense if the information has already been publicly revealed in some form.
The False Claims Act also contains several other rules with regard to filing an action. First, the claim must be filed under seal in a federal district court. This means that the complaint and accompanying documents must be kept completely private and are not to be posted or revealed in any way. Second, the relator must include specific evidence relating to the nature of the fraud along with the complaint, as it is insufficient to allege fraud in general terms. Presently, courts are split on the extent and specificity that is required in False Claims Act pleadings, and your whistleblower attorney will be able to guide you as to how much evidence of fraud you will need to avoid a dismissal.
Once the claim is filed, it must be served on the U.S. government, who will review the contents and decide whether to intervene.
Under the rules of the False Claims Act, the U.S. government may opt to intervene on your case. This means that the Department of Justice will file its own complaint in the matter and enlist the services of government investigative units to further examine the allegations of fraud. The government intervenes in a small percentage of cases, usually those with the strongest evidence or those involving widespread or costly fraud. The government generally has 60 days to review the claims and decide whether to intervene – however, it can request more time if necessary.
If the government decides to intervene, it thereafter holds the right to prosecute the action itself – however, the whistleblower may still remain involved as a party.
The False Claims Act is designed to incentivize integrity. In other words, it offers plaintiffs the opportunity to collect money in exchange for their decision to come forward.
If the government intervenes in the case and settles or results in a judgment, the relator may receive up to 25 percent of the total recovery. If the government opts not to intervene and the plaintiff successfully concludes the matter, he or she can receive up to 30 percent of the total payout.
Contact Your Whistleblower Attorney Today!
If you are ready to get started, we are ready to meet you! For more information about the False Claims Act process or to speak with a reputable qui tam attorney, contact Berger & Montague today!