False Claims/Qui Tam
In recent years the Federal False Claims Act has become one of the most effective weapons in fighting fraud committed against the Federal Government. Many states, including Arkansas, have similar provisions which vary in strength and scope. Most attorneys have never either pursued or defended a case under the False Claims Act, and some attorneys have never even heard of the False Claims Act or could describe what a qui tam lawsuit is. However, James, House, & Downing, P.A. has extensive experience in pursuing and defending these lawsuits on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants, and attorneys at the Firm have not only handled multiple cases but spoken on the topic at legal seminars.
Common types of qui tam claims include Medicare and Medicaid fraud, defense contractor fraud, and similar types of fraud and abuse allegedly committed by private contractors against the Federal and State governments. This type of litigation is unique and contains many procedural pitfalls for attorneys and parties who are not familiar with the process.
The False Claims Act allows people to file “qui tam” lawsuits against individuals or business entities that have committed fraud against the Government. Typically the individual is a present or former employee of the individual or entity which is accused of committing the fraud. However, in certain instances third parties such as subcontractors, competitors, etc. can bring the lawsuit. While the laws are different at the Federal and State levels, generally the plaintiff (“relator” or “whistleblower”) files the lawsuit “under seal” such that is not available to anyone else but the Government officials investigating the claim. The Government can then investigate the allegations and choose whether or not to participate in the prosecution of the action by “intervening.” If the Government joins the case the litigation is jointly handled by the Government and the plaintiff’s attorney. If the Government does not choose to participate, however, the relator may proceed with the case anyway although such cases can be more difficult to win. Because of both the statute of limitations and provisions stating that only one case can proceed relating to the alleged fraud, it is vital that such cases are brought as soon as possible or else they can be completely barred.
James, House, & Downing, P.A. has handled multiple cases in this complex area of law. Specifically, the Federal False Claims Act provides that a liable defendant pay three times the Government’s losses plus a substantial fine for each false claim. The defendant must also pay not only their legal fees and expenses but also the legal fees and expenses of the whistleblower’s attorneys. To provide an incentive for plaintiffs to expose alleged fraud against the Government, whistleblowers are generally entitled to 15% to 30% of whatever the amount the Government recovers as a result of their qui tam case. The specific amount will be set by the Court and depends upon whether the Government participated in the case, as well as other criteria.
James, House, & Downing, P.A. has a history of successfully handling these cases. If we can be of assistance, please contact us.