How Does a Qui Tam Lawsuit Work?
In qui tam lawsuits, the person filing the claim, or the relator, is often an employee of the entity being sued for illegal activity. The relator may have attempted to lodge a complaint about the fraudulent or criminal practices internally with no success before deciding to pursue outside legal action. It is also possible that the relator is from a competitor or a public interest group who feels that there is no other recourse than to bring a qui tam suit. It is at this point that the relator needs to hire an experienced qui tam lawyer.
Under seal, the relator files his or her complaint in whatever U.S. district court has jurisdiction, along with whatever evidence he or she has to support the case. At this point, the government has the opportunity to review the allegations and decide whether or not to join in the lawsuit. This is why the case is filed under seal: that way, no one but the Department of Justice, the relator, and the relator’s attorney know that there is any ongoing investigation, and the government has time to review the allegations thoroughly before making its choice.
The government has 60 days to decide whether it will join forces with the relator to go after the entity. However, the government can often get an extension on that timeline, so it is common for their review to last anywhere from several months to several years. As the relator, you can expect the following while the government looks into your case:
- Interviews with you and any other people who witnessed the fraud/criminal acts and can corroborate your case, as well as with any appropriate government officials
- Reviews of your records and any applicable government records
During the investigation, the government may ask the Department of Justice to lift the seal so that part of the case can be made public and the allegations can be discussed with the defendant. The case may be settled through negotiations at this point, or it may go to trial. The Department of Justice may ask for civil and/or criminal resources from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the appropriate jurisdiction while investigating the case; if the U.S. Attorney’s office opens a criminal investigation as a result, the qui tam case will be postponed until after that investigation ends.
If the government decides to join the lawsuit, it will take over the prosecution, but the relator will still be involved along with his or her attorney. The government’s options if it decides not to pursue the suit are to dismiss it completely (this is rare) or to try to settle it without a formal investigation. If the government doesn’t join the suit but doesn’t dismiss it, the relator is free to continue with the case; it will just have to be done without the assistance of the government. With the help of the right attorney, these cases can often still be successfully prosecuted and will result in a larger monetary reward for the relator.
There are a lot of complex aspects to qui tam lawsuits that require a knowledgeable lawyer with a background in qui tam cases. That is exactly who you’ll find if you work with the legal team at Sheridan & Murray. With years of experience in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, our lawyers are excellent at dealing with the intricacies of qui tam suits. Contact us now for your free consultation so we can review the facts of your case and best advise you as to how to move forward. There is no obligation, and your case will be evaluated immediately. We know how to protect your rights as the relator while seeking the best outcome for your case.