Whistleblower, Qui Tam Lawsuits, Lawyers and Compensation
“Whistleblowers” have historically played an important role in keeping their fellow Americans safe and protecting the integrity of public programs. Whistleblowers have exposed companies who have illegally dumped toxic chemicals and contaminated local land and water supplies, revealed examples of businesses that have exposed their employees to hazardous substances, and uncovered individuals and entities who have defrauded the government (and, by extension, the American taxpayer) out of thousands of dollars.
When a whistleblower uncovers evidence of fraud or abuse of government programs, that whistleblower may be able to file a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act. In so doing, the whistleblower and plaintiff brings the suit on behalf of the government. (The Latin phrase qui tam is part of the phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur,” which means “one who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.”) Not only will such a lawsuit impose liability on the fraudulent actor, but the whistleblower may be able to recover a portion of the monetary damages award imposed upon the fraudulent actor.
Examples of Whistleblower or Qui Tam Lawsuits
Fraud committed against government programs can occur in a variety of ways:
- A doctor or medical clinic bills Medicaid for compensation for a procedure that the doctor never performed;
- A defense contractor may overstate the cost of its services or products in a contract with the federal government or may oversell the reliability and effectiveness of a product it is attempting to sell to the government;
- A pharmaceutical company markets a drug to physicians for an “off-label” use that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Not only can fraudulent activity committed against the government cost the United States taxpayers billions of dollars a year, but fraudulent activity may also place lives at risk. If the Army or Navy were to purchase personal protective equipment that was fraudulently marketed by the manufacturer as being able to withstand dangerous chemical, the lives of soldiers and sailors may be put at risk when that equipment fails. A pharmaceutical company that markets a controversial or dangerous drug for an “off-label” use may be complicit in causing injury to a patient if a patient develops serious health complications following his or her doctor’s prescription of the drug for an off-label and unapproved condition.
Description of Whistleblower or Qui Tam Lawsuits
When an individual becomes aware of fraudulent activity toward the government or toward a government program, that person becomes a “whistleblower” when he or she decides to expose evidence of the wrongdoing to the public. The False Claims Act allows the whistleblower to go one step further and file a private action against the wrongdoer on behalf of the government and seek compensatory damages. The damages are meant to address not only the amount the individual or entity defrauded the government, but also the costs associated with bringing the action.
In a qui tam lawsuit, the private individual is bringing an action on behalf of the government. Upon filing, the government is made aware of the allegations and afforded an opportunity to investigate the allegations of fraud for themselves. However, the government is afforded an opportunity to “intervene” in the case and join the private individual’s efforts. If the government does choose to do so, the government lends its resource and knowledge to the lawsuit in a collaborative effort with the private plaintiff. If the government does not choose to intervene (in truth, the government intervenes in only a few cases each year), then the private plaintiff may either continue along with his or her suit or he or she may choose not to pursue his or her qui tam lawsuit any further.
In an effort to encourage whistleblowers in possession of evidence of fraud to come forward and expose such wrongdoing, the False Claims Act (and other state laws modeled after the False Claims Act) provide workplace protections that help safeguard whistleblowers against retaliation. The False Claims Act also provides a financial incentive to whistleblowers: If a qui tam plaintiff is successful in winning his or her case, the qui tam plaintiff may receive a percentage of the amount recovered (the whistleblower receives a larger percentage if he or she is successful and the government does not intervene).
Seek Help from a Whistleblower Qui Tam Lawsuit Attorney
Stern Law, PLLC has represented numerous whistleblowers who are committed to exposing fraud and waste through qui tam lawsuits. Attorney Ken Stern is familiar with the elements of a qui tam fraud lawsuit and can use the evidence the whistleblower has already accumulated and use these facts and other evidence to support the whistleblower’s accusations. Time is of the essence in whistleblower cases, so contact Stern Law, PLLC at (844) 808-7529 as soon as possible if you believe you have evidence of Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud, or other government fraud, abuse, or waste.