Three Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing
a Qui Tam Whistleblower Case
- Be careful in choosing a lawyer. You want a lawyer who already knows whistleblower law and procedure, not one who’s learning it for your case.
Experience matters. Whistleblower law, practice, and procedure are specialized areas. Qui tam/whistleblower cases are neither conventional employment cases nor conventional fraud cases. These cases must be filed in camera and under seal; the government, not the whistleblower, is always the real party in interest; and those two factors, among others, distinguish these cases from any other kind of case. You do not just want a very good lawyer. You want a very good lawyer who is knowledgeable and experienced in the area of qui tam law, indeed, a team of experienced qui tam lawyers. And you want your team to be known to and trusted by government investigators and prosecutors at the Justice Department in Washington and the U.S. Attorney’s office (for federal cases), or the state Attorney General’s office (for state false claims suits), because those offices, too, will inevitably play a role in the success (or failure) of your case.
- Do not procrastinate. Act quickly.
Time is not on your side. False Claims Acts, both at the state and federal level, tend to be governed by a “first to file” rule. If you are not the first whistleblower to file a case making the allegations you are making, then, generally speaking, you will be out of luck. The second-filed case is likely to get dismissed. In addition, there are deadlines for filing your case (“statutes of limitations”).
- Do not talk about what you know with anyone except your lawyer. Mum’s the word.
There are three reasons for secrecy. First, generally speaking, qui tam cases must be based on information that has not previously been publicly disclosed. Discussing your allegations, posting about your allegations on the internet, or sharing what you know with anyone, other than your lawyer, can jeopardize your case. If you disclose what you know before you file your case, you may not have a case anymore. Second, and relatedly, if you talk about your case, somebody else may file it and beat you to the punch. Third, when a qui tam case is filed, it must be filed under seal and the seal remains in place until a court orders it to be lifted. If you violate that seal of secrecy, letting anyone know that you have filed a qui tam case before the seal is lifted, generally speaking, your case will be dismissed.
To learn more, check out our Qui Tam Law FAQ.