Filing Qui Tam Lawsuit Advice
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UPDATED: Aug 5, 2019
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Qui Tam lawsuits – also known as whistleblower lawsuits – are filed by individuals on behalf of the government to expose fraudulent activity. Since fraud, and generally a great deal of money are involved, whistleblowers should understand the process before deciding to file a lawsuit.
Larry Golston, an Alabama attorney whose firm represents clients in Qui Tam litigation, as well as consumer fraud and bad faith insurance litigation, provided the following prudent advice:
- Be vigilant. I would advise potential Qui Tam plaintiffs to be vigilant and notice things that happen within their companies. I’m sure employees for Black Water or Halliburton have noticed things that have occurred within their respective companies.
Sometimes, the fraud is very straight forward – such as charging $15,000 for a hammer or $10,000 for a nail. I think when people become aware of that, they should seek legal counsel to protect not only the government, but their potential interest in being a whistleblower and recovering for having come forward and telling the government what’s going on.
- Keep the information confidential. What potential Qui Tam plaintiffs don’t want to do is disclose the fraud to others as they may lose their rights. By that, I mean that if the information that they are bringing to the government is already publicly disclosed, they can’t recover. So, if they go out and talk to their best friend who just so happens to work at the local TV station, tell him what’s going on and he does a nice little segment on the evening news about it, the chances are good that they’re not going to be able to recover because the government will claim that the information is public knowledge.
Original source rule
The original source rule – being the first person to discover and report the fraud – is critical in filing Qui Tam cases, according to Golston. He explained, “If you’re the person who brought the matter to the government’s attention by calling the Department of Defense and told them that your company was not performing its contract the way it’s suppose to, then you are the original source of that information. If that’s the case and you are the first to file at the courthouse, then you are protected under that exception. In some situations, the person may be protected if they’ve completed some sort of intergovernmental filing with the government and brought it to their attention.”
However, Golston also says that in some cases, years of litigation may occur simply determining who is the original source of the information. He told us, “It’s best to avoid that kind of situation altogether. These are situations in which you don’t want to gamble. It’s best to contact an attorney first and let him or her help you get the information to the government.”
If you believe that you may have a Qui Tam lawsuit, contact an attorney whose practice focuses in this area of the law. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential. To contact an experienced attorney, please click here.