Qui Tam Explained
What is a Qui Tam Lawsuit?
A qui tam lawsuit allows a private citizen to bring an action against a person or company who is committing fraud against the U.S. government. Also known as whistleblower lawsuits, a person who wins a qui tam lawsuit can personally receive a portion of any damages that the United States recovers against a wrongdoer.
History of Qui Tam
But what is qui tam? Qui tam is short for the latin phrase, “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur,” meaning “one who sues for the King as well as himself.” Writs of qui tam originated in 13th century England, and allowed private citizens to help enforce the laws of the land. A person using qui tam could use the writ to access the Court and bring criminals in front of the Crown to answer for their fraudulent acts. The people who brought wrongdoers to justice would receive bounties or monetary rewards from the king.
Writs of qui tam remained popular in colonial America, especially while the colonies lacked the manpower needed to enforce new laws and rules. As the country developed, the majority of colonies, and then states, retained elements of the qui tam writs.
During the civil war, Congress enacted the False Claims Act (FCA) to prevent profiteering and stem the widespread fraud against the government. At the time, unscrupulous profiteers were taking advantage of the country’s widespread need for supplies, arms, and general provisions by driving up prices and exploiting desperate people. The FCA incorporated many qualities of the old qui tam laws, and allowed citizens who turned in those committing fraud to recover half of the damages won by United States.
The FCA has been amended by Congress two additional times—once during World War II and again during the Reagan administration. Today’s FCA has a longer statute of limitations, allows informants to recover up to 30% of the government’s damages, and granted whistleblowers protection from retaliatory termination of their employment.
Today’s Qui Tam and FCA lawsuits
Qui tam lawsuits are now used mainly against health care providers and defense contractors who rely on government contracts as part of their business. Qui tam lawsuits can be generally classified into three types: mischarging, contract violations, and consumer fraud.
Mischarging and Billing Violations
Mischarging is one of the most common reasons for qui tam lawsuits. Overcharging for goods, underreporting a contractor’s obligation to pay, or charges for services that were not actually performed are all prohibited by the FCA.
Contractors have an obligation to provide the services and goods proscribed by the government contract. Substituting poor quality goods, buying cheaper items, or falsely certifying that goods meet the contract standards are all FCA violations.
Consumer fraud can cover a wide variety of violations, but generally means that a government contractor is cutting costs at the expense of the safety of the public. For example, a pharmaceutical company which fails to comply with FDA regulations to save money could be subject to a qui tam lawsuit.
Have You Witnessed Fraud Against The Government?
If you become aware of fraud, or know that your employer is cheating the government, you may be able to file a qui tam lawsuit and recover damages from the wrongdoer. At Riddle & Brantley, LLP, we know that these cases are sensitive, and you may be hesitant to report instances of fraud.
Our experienced qui tam lawyers will protect your privacy and help you make the best decision about reporting fraud. We have a proven track record of successfully litigating complex claims, and will put our decades of legal experience to work for you. If you have questions about filing a qui tam claim, call (800) 525-7111 or use our case evaluation form to have your claim reviewed for free by our knowledgeable attorneys today.