Latin for “he who sues in this matter for the king and as well as for himself,” qui tam is used in modern days to allow citizens to file a claim or lawsuit against a person or entity that is defrauding the government. In the United States, such claims fall under the Federal Civil False Claims Act.

What is the Federal Civil False Claims Act?

This statute allows citizens to bring actions of fraud or deceit against some wrongdoer who filed a false claim of payment with the government. Because the statute requires that the plaintiff filing suit have evidence to prove the fraud, that person is usually affiliated with the wrongdoer like an employee or someone who would have personal knowledge of what happened.

The government has the right to intervene in the suit, but their participation is not required for the plaintiff to be successful.

What Activities Fall Under the Federal Statute?

This law is responsible for catching most of the fraudulent government contractors who are engaged in defrauding or deceitful claims with the government. Under the statute, the following activities are considered illegal and a plaintiff with evidence of such actions may file a claim:

  • Knowingly presenting or causing such information to be presented that makes a false or fraudulent claim for payment to the government;
  • Knowingly using or causing such information to be used as a false or fraudulent record or statement in order to get a government claim paid;
  • Knowingly using or causing the use of a false record or statement with the purpose of concealing, avoiding, or decreasing an obligation to pay money or property to the government; and/or
  • Conspiring with others to to do any of the above actions in order to get a fraudulent or false claim paid by the government.

Examples of such activities include:

  • Overbilling the federal government for services or goods rendered;
  • Submitting claims for payment of goods or services that were never rendered; or
  • Making a false certification of a benefit in order to get a bill paid on your own behalf or a client’s.

Who can File Qui Tam Claim?

Any person or entity that has evidence of fraudulent activity against a federal program, grant, or contract may file a lawsuit under the Civil False Claims Act. However, if someone else with the same evidence has already done so, you will not be able to bring a second suit.

What Should Be Included in My Qui Tam Claim?

You must include the following elements in your complaint to ensure that it’s complete and have the best chance of success:

  • Specific dates of when the fraudulent activity took place;
  • Identify the persons within the company or organization that made the false statement or record or sent such record to the government;
  • Any evidence you have showing the fraudulent activity; and
  • Specify how you discovered the fraudulent activity.

Where Do I File My Qui Tam claim?

The claim should be filed confidentially, under seal with the federal court within your jurisdiction. You must also serve a copy of all documents filed on the U.S. Attorney General and the local U.S. Attorney’s Office in the same jurisdiction you are filing in federal court.

Because the court must lift the confidential seal, you must not serve a copy or notify the defendant of the filing until the court determines otherwise. Failure to comply with the confidentiality provisions can cause a dismissal of the case.

Are there any Statutes of Limitations to File My Qui Tam Claim?

Yes, you must file within 3 years of the government having knowledge or when they should have had knowledge of the false claim or within the 6 years of the actual false claim whichever comes later. However, no claim can be filed after 10 years of the false claim.

Can My Employer Retaliate Against Me if I File a Qui Tam claim?

No. The Civil False Claims Act provides whistleblowers with certain protections for coming forward. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against the plaintiff employee including harassment, demotion, or termination, when the employee makes a lawful complaint under the act.

However, there are statutory time requirements so you must file within the timeframe to be protected. You must also have sufficient evidence to pursue the claim to be protected.

If the employer does retaliate, you may be entitled to:

  • Double back pay;
  • Reinstatement to your former position; and/or
  • Compensation for damages including attorney’s fees and costs of litigation.

What are the Penalties for those Who are Found Guilty of a Qui Tam Action?

Defendants found guilty can face up to three times the dollar amount of what they defrauded the government. They may also be subjected to civil penalties in the amount of $5,000 to $10,000 for each false claim.

Can I Receive a Reward for My Qui Tam Action?

Yes, if money is recovered from the defendant either by court order or through settlement, you may be eligible for 15-30% of the recovered monies. However, you must have filed a Qui Tam claim to get a reward. Notifying the government of the fraud is not enough to recover.

Can a Lawyer Help Me with My Qui Tam Lawsuit?

Yes, an employment lawyer can assist you in evaluating the evidence you have uncovered of the fraud and assist you in drafting the appropriate complaint. If you have been retaliated against by your employer, a lawyer can help you to recover any benefits you are entitled to under the act.