What is the Rhode Island False Claims Act?
The Rhode Island False Claims Act is modeled after the federal False Claims Act and allows individuals with information related to fraud, waste, and abuse being perpetrated on the Rhode Island government to file a lawsuit on behalf of the government.
Rhode Island False Claims Act Liability
Under the Rhode Island False Claims Act, similar to the Federal False Claims Act, any person can be liable who:
- Knowingly presents, or causes to be presented a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval;
- Knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim;
- Conspires to commit a violation of subdivisions 9-1.1-3(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6) or (7) [see below];
- Has possession, custody, or control of property or money used, or to be used, by the state and knowingly delivers, or causes to be delivered, less property than all of that money or property;
- Is authorized to make or deliver a document certifying receipt of property used, or to be used, by the state and, intending to defraud the state, makes or delivers the receipt without completely knowing that the information on the receipt is true;
- Knowingly buys, or receives as a pledge of an obligation or debt, public property from an officer or employee of the state, or a member of the guard, who lawfully may not sell or pledge the property; or
- Knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement material to an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the state, or knowingly conceals or knowingly and improperly avoids or decreases an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the state
Rhode Island False Claims Act, § 9-1.1-3(a).
Rhode Island False Claims Act Damages
If the perpetrator is found liable, he/she is liable to Rhode Island for a civil penalty of at least $5,500 and no more than $11,000, plus three times the amount of damages which the state sustains because of the act of that person. A person violating this subsection (a) shall also be liable to the state for the costs of a civil action brought to recover any such penalty or damages. Rhode Island False Claims Act, § 9-1.1-3(a).
Rhode Island False Claims Act Procedure
In order to bring a claim under the Rhode Island False Claims Act, a person must bring an action in the name of the state. The action may only be dismissed if the Court and the Attorney General of the State give written consent to the dismissal and their reasons for consenting. Rhode Island False Claims Act, § 9-1.1-4(b)(1).
The person filing the civil action must serve a copy of the complaint and written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information the person possesses on the State Attorney General. Id. § 9-1.1-4(b)(2).
Once the complaint is filed and served on the State Attorney General, the complaint shall remain under seal for 60 days. Id. The State, for good cause, can move the Court to extend the seal. Id. § 9-1.1-4(b)(3).
Before the seal expires or is extended, the State can proceed with the action or notify the Court that it declines to take over the action. If the Court declines to take the case, the person bringing the action has the right to conduct the action. Id. § 9-1.1-4(b)(4).
Rhode Island False Claims Act Award
If the State proceeds with the action and obtains a recovery, the whistleblower shall receive 15-25% of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim. If the State declines to proceed with the action, the whistleblower shall receive 23-30% of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim, depending on how much the whistleblower contributed to the case. § 9-1.1-4(d)(1-2).
If the action is based primarily on disclosures of specific information that has been publicly disclosed, the Court may award sums as it considers appropriate, but in no case more than 10% of the proceeds, taking into account the significance of the information and the role of the person bringing the action in advancing the case to litigation.
In addition, the Court may award reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses to the whistleblower attorney and the State Attorney General. The fees to the State Attorney General shall be deposited into a false claims act fund. Id. § 9-1.1-4(d)(1).
Rhode Island False Claims Act Success
In 2015, information published by the Office of Inspector General shows that the Rhode Island Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated over 42 reports of fraud, waste, and abuse. These investigations resulted in 10 criminal convictions and 24 civil settlements and judgements, recovering over $535,000 in stolen taxpayer dollars for the state of Rhode Island.
While not all of these were the result of whistleblower complaints, whistleblowers played a large role in reporting fraud, waste, and abuse using the Rhode Island False Claims Act.