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Legal Blog

Whistleblower Lawsuits

Published: Oct 25, 2016 in Employment Law

Many people have heard of whistleblower lawsuits or maybe even Qui Tam cases, but few know where this unique term comes from. The answer is an antiquated Latin phrase “Qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur.” It roughly translates to “He who brings a case on behalf of our lord the King, as well as for himself.” A more modern translation of this theory means an individual has brought a case on behalf of the government, but will benefit from the result himself. In a Qui Tam lawsuit, a private individual, called a relator, brings a civil action on the government’s behalf. Though the government is viewed as the plaintiff, the relator receives a share of the award if the government wins the case. Qui Tam cases arise when a private individual has information about another person or a business’s fraudulent or illegal activity that injured the U.S. government. The individual brings attention to the illegal activity or ‘blows the whistle’ and helps the U.S. bring a case against the culpable party. However, whistleblower lawsuits are complicated and must be handled by an experienced attorney.

If you believe you have information about a business engaged in illegal activity or an individual or business submitting false or fraudulent claims to the U.S., you should call a Belleville employment lawyer at Cates Mahoney at (618) 767-6293 immediately.

Qui Tam Cases

Qui Tam Cases are often brought under the False Claims Act. When an individual has information about someone else or a legal entity making false or fraudulent claims to the U.S. or causing the submission of these claims to the government, that individual can help prosecutors bring a case against the responsible party. This individual becomes known as the relator and provides testimony and evidence to the United States Department of Justice to build a case against the wrongdoer. By bringing the lawsuit on behalf of the government, the U.S. has the opportunity to recover the funds it lost due to false or fraudulent claims, and the relator can receive compensation for his or her efforts.

After an initial investigation that usually includes multiple law enforcement agencies, the government can agree or decline to intervene in the action. The relator then has the option to continue with a private action, in which the U.S. would still recover.

Many whistleblower cases arise because an employee has information about his employer’s illegal activity. Examples of Qui Tam lawsuits include actions against:

  • Individuals or businesses who made fraudulent claims under Medicaid, Medicare, and other government benefit programs
  • Government contractors who fraudulently billed the U.S., and
  • Individuals or business who committed tax fraud.

Recovery Under Federal Qui Tam Cases

Under the False Claims Act, if another party is found guilty of making fraudulent or false claims to the government, it can be penalized three times the amount of economic damages and fined from $5,500 to $11,000 per claim.

Whether a Qui Tam case is settled or if the government is awarded a judgment, the relator can receive up to 30% of the recovery.

Protection for Whistleblowers

Coming forward with information about fraudulent practices that take advantage of the U.S. government can be intimidating and scary. Someone with incriminating evidence may be worried about his or her job or safety. Because of these concerns, the False Claims Act requires a detailed process, meant to protect individuals who agree to help prosecutors.

All relators must be represented by an attorney to ensure their rights are protected. The Qui Tam complaint and other filings are all filed under seal and scheduled on a secret docket with the Clerk of the Court. Who receives the complaint or other documents is highly restricted, but can be expanded by a motion from the U.S. Attorney. The defendant is not served the complaint.

When the relator provides a disclosure statement to the DOJ regarding the information and evidence he has, this statement is neither filed in court nor available to the defendant.

The False Claims Act also provides specific whistleblower protections. If a relator is fired, demoted, harassed, or in any way discriminated against because of whistleblowing, that individual may be entitled to double back pay, reinstatement, and special damages including court costs and attorney’s fees.

However, the statute of limitations for bringing an action based on retaliation for whistleblowing is different than the statute of limitations for the Qui Tam act. Consequently, any individual suffering from discrimination because of whistleblowing should contact the attorneys at Cates Mahoney as soon as possible.

Illinois Whistleblower Actions

While many Qui Tam cases are brought under the federal False Claims Act, there are also state-level whistleblower actions under the Illinois False Claims Act. An Illinois case is appropriate when the state has been defrauded by an individual or business. The state is involved when the victim of the fraud is a state agency, a state college or university, or even local government or municipality.

Illinois law also protects whistleblowers from retaliatory action. Under the Illinois Whistleblower Act, any individual discriminated against because of disclosing or threatening to disclose illegal conduct may be able to recover double back pay, interest on back pay, job reinstatement, and reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees.

An Illinois Employment Lawyer Can Help

If you have information that your employer or another individual or business is providing false or fraudulent information to the local, state, or federal government, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Cates Mahoney as soon as possible. It can be difficult to know what to do when you realize your employer is doing something illegal and is not correcting the situation. We can advise you on the best course of action at work and within the court system, and will help you protect your employment. If you have been a victim of retaliation because of your decision to come forward, we can help you recover compensation. The law is on your side.

For more information, contact Cates Mahoney at (618) 767-6293 or use our online form.