A qui tam case is a type of whistleblower lawsuit in which the plaintiff sues the defendant for violating a regulation or someone else’s rights. The plaintiff may not have suffered harm from the alleged violation, but he or she is claiming that the violation occurred and could or did harm someone. Qui tam cases are brought pursuant to The False Claims Act (FCA). The False Claims Act is a federal law that imposes liability on persons and companies (typically federal contractors) who defraud governmental programs.
The False Claims Act allows a private citizen to sue an individual or a business that is defrauding the government and recover funds on the government’s behalf. The qui tam lawsuit is filed “under seal,” meaning that it is kept secret from everyone but the government to give the Justice Department time to investigate the allegations. Even the person or entity being accused of fraud is not told about the qui tam case. The qui tam lawsuit and supporting documents should provide the government with detailed information about the fraud.
This sounds complicated because it is. You should work with a Columbus qui tam lawyer before coming forward with any type of whistleblower information. Making reports that lack evidence or approaching the wrong agency can significantly reduce your chances for holding a company, employer, or group accountable for breaking important rules put in place to protect individuals’ health, safety, civil rights, and employment opportunities.
What does ‘qui tam’ mean?
The Latin term is a shorthand version of qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, which is usually translated as “[he or she] who sues for the king as well as with himself in what follows in this respect.” The state or federal government replaces “the king” in the United States, but the underlying common law principal remains the same. When a person discovers that a rule or regulation is being broken, that person can initiate a civil lawsuit under the authority of the government. The most-appropriate government agency eventually takes over as the litigant — the entity that presents the case to a judge and jury — but the original plaintiff remains a party to the suit and retains a right to share in any monetary settlement or award.
What types of qui tam cases are there?
Qui tam cases commonly address problems related to:
- Medical provider fraud against hospitals, clinics, or home health services for fraudulent billing practices. These fraudulent billing practices harm Government healthcare payers. Fraudulent billing examples include forged records, double-billing, and “upcoding” (billing for a more expensive procedure than the one performed). These are most common with Medicare and Medicaid healthcare providers.
- Defense contractor fraud including overbilling, product substitution, cross charging, contractor fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, and failure to comply with contract specifications.
- Financial industry fraud including tax fraud, money laundering and violations of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
There are many other examples. Please contact one of our Columbus whistleblower attorneys to determine if your case could potentially fall under the False Claims Act.
Again, speaking with a qui tam attorney in Columbus will help a person who witnesses or experiences what they believe to be wrongdoing understand if he or she has grounds for filing a lawsuit and which agency to approach with their concerns.
What happens during a qui tam case?
The qui tam process starts with an official complaint that is filed under seal. Officials will ask for all the evidence the plaintiff can produce. Quite a bit of paperwork will need to be filed, and one or more interviews will usually take place. Your lawyers will be present with you during those interviews.
The agency will open an investigation if it believes the plaintiff’s claims have merit. This can result in either dropping the case if the evidence does not pan out or moving forward to recoup money stolen from the government. As noted, the agency acts as the litigant before the court. The plaintiff will be asked to give a deposition and may be required to testify in court. A qui tam attorney can represent the plaintiff at each stage of the process.
The discrimination and employment lawyers in the Columbus, Ohio, offices of the Friedmann Firm welcome all questions about whistleblower complaints and qui tam cases. You can schedule a free and confidential consultation online or by calling 614.610.9755.
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