Who Can File a Qui Tam Case
Under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act, the relator (plaintiff) files an action on behalf of the U.S. government. The act allows a wide variety of people and entities to file a qui tam action. The more common types of relators are:
- Employees. An employee who blows the whistle on his or her employer is the most common type of relator. History has shown that employees normally file qui tam actions against their employers as a last resort after repeated attempts to resolve the issues internally (often through so-called internal “hotlines”) have met with negative results. An important provision of the 1986 amendments protects an employee who files an action, or assists in furthering an action, against job retaliation or harassment by the employer.
- Former employees. Former employees are the second most common type of whistleblowers who file qui tam actions. A former employee files a qui tam action based on his or her direct knowledge of fraud on the part of his or her former employer. In many cases, the former employee was terminated or quit under duress as a result of trying to report the matter or have it addressed internally.
- State and local governments. The 1986 qui tam amendment gave state and local governments the power to file qui tam actions. Since then, there have been a number cases launched by local and state government entities against contractors and medical providers as a means of recovering state or local revenue lost in fraudulent schemes.
- Government employees. A much maligned and controversial relator group includes current and former federal employees who file qui tam actions. The False Claims Act as amended in 1986 does not exclude federal employees from initiating qui tam cases. However, when a federal employee does file a qui tam action, it results in considerable controversy and numerous court challenges as to whether the employee, by virtue of his or her employment, is obligated to disclose the fraud without any expectation of a reward. The courts have held mixed opinions on whether a federal employee indeed has standing under the act, but in general have ruled against the federal employee relator. Concerns have been raised as to whether a federal employee filing an action presents a type of conflict of interest, and the Justice Department remains hostile toward this type of relator.
Other types of qui tam relators have included public interest groups, corporations, and other private organizations.However, organizations as relators have raised questions as to whether they can meet the “public disclosure” provision of the law. Some courts have dismissed organizations as relators for not being able to meet that provision.
The False Claims Act allows a relator to file a qui tam action even if a “public disclosure” was made prior to the action being filed as long as the relator meets the “original source” test. The original source test stipulates that the relator had “direct and independent knowledge” of the information on which the allegations were based, and the relator “voluntarily provided the information to the government” prior to any public disclosure and prior to filing the action.
If you are not sure whether you are eligible to file a qui tam case, you need to contact an experienced attorney. At Avram Blair & Associates, we can advise you on your eligibility and help you determine whether to move forward with your qui tam action.