What are Possible Consequences of Bringing a Qui Tam Action?

Filing a qui tam suit can put the relator at significant personal and professional discomfort. There are several possible consequences of your bringing a qui tam action against your former employer, such as:

  • harm to your reputation in the industry and ability to obtain new employment;
  • possibility of separate lawsuits against you for defamation or tortious interference;
  • the risk of being assessed defense costs and attorney fees in an unsuccessful, declined case or if the court finds that the case has been brought for vexatious, harassing, or improper purposes;
  • retaliation by your employer;
  • among others.

These risks need to be balanced against the likelihood of winning the case, but you should know that qui tam suits often take years to resolve, and the results cannot be predicted.

The False Claims Act provides that the qui tam relator shall be awarded between 15 and 30 percent, depending on whether the government intervenes or not and several other factors. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • whether the relator planned or initiated the false claims;
  • how promptly the relator reported the fraud;
  • whether the complaint warns the government of a significant safety issue;
  • whether the complaint exposed a nationwide practice;
  • whether the relator knows extensive, first-hand details of the fraud;
  • whether the government knew of the fraud;
  • whether the relator provides substantial assistance during the investigation and/or pretrial phase of the case;
  • whether the relator was an excellent, credible witness at his deposition;
  • how big of a recovery it will be;
  • whether the filing of the complaint has a substantial adverse impact on the relator

Retaliation by your employer

Section 3730(h) of the False Claims Act prohibits an employer from retaliating against you for attempting to uncover or report fraud on the federal government. If retaliation does occur, you may also be awarded “all relief necessary to make the employee whole,” including reinstatement, back pay, two times the amount of back pay, litigation costs, and attorney fees.

There are limitations and pitfalls however:

  • The retaliation case must be brought within the applicable statute of limitations;
  • You must as an “employee;”
  • The acts that you did must be “in furtherance of” an action under the False Claims Act as the courts have interpreted those words.

There may be additional or alternative damages available to you under applicable state statute, common law, or other whistleblower statutes.

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