How long does a qui tam action take?
The time from the filing of a qui tam action until its resolution varies greatly from case to case. Most cases, however, are resolved in two to five years. We have handled cases that lasted over eight years, but that is unusual. A lot depends on the length of the seal period, during which the government investigates the allegations and decides whether to join the action. The seal lasts a minimum of 60 days, but the period may be extended upon request by the government, and it is not unusual for it to last well over a year or two. After the seal period, depending on the complexity of the case, litigation may proceed for several years. Understandably, many relators are frustrated by the time it takes to resolve a qui tam suit. Other than to cooperate fully and truthfully with the government’s investigation and to stay informed of any developments, there is not much a relator can do to speed up the process. But rest assured, “though the wheels of justice turn slowly, they grind exceedingly fine.”
What happens after the case is filed?
After you file your qui tam complaint and serve the government with your disclosure statement describing all material evidence and information in your possession, your case remains under seal (i.e., confidential) for at least 60 days. This 60-day seal period is typically extended upon request by the government. It is not unusual for the seal period to last a year or more. During the seal period, the government investigates your allegations. At this time you may be asked to provide additional information to support the government’s investigation. At the end of the seal period, the government chooses either to intervene and proceed with the action or to decline intervention. If the government intervenes and proceeds with the action, the Department of Justice has primary responsibility for prosecuting the case. You, the relator, have the right to continue as a party in the action, and you (and your lawyer) may participate in the litigation subject to certain limitations. The government may dismiss or settle the action notwithstanding your objections, but only if the court consents after a hearing on the proposed dismissal or settlement. If the government declines to intervene, you have the right to conduct the action on your own. The government may, however, intervene at a later date upon a showing of good cause. After the government decides whether to intervene and the seal period ends, the complaint is served on the defendant. The lawsuit then proceeds generally in the same manner as any other federal civil litigation, except for the special issues raised by the qui tam concept.
What happens after the government investigation?
After the government investigation, the government decides whether to intervene in all or a portion of your lawsuit. If the government intervenes, it has primary responsibility for prosecution of the case. The relator, however, has the right to continue as a party in the action and to participate in the litigation. If the government declines to intervene, the relator has the right to prosecute the case. The government may intervene in the case at a later time upon a showing of good cause. In either event, after the seal period ends, the qui tam complaint is served on the defendant(s). The lawsuit will then proceed in the same manner as most other federal litigation.
What if the government doesn’t intervene?
If the government declines to intervene, the relator has the right to prosecute the case. However, if the government declines, we take a hard look at where things are and work with our client to decide whether to move forward. A number of whistleblowers have succeeded in cases where the government declined intervention, and the government may intervene in the case at a later time upon a showing of good cause. We believe that cases should be evaluated on their merits and proceed accordingly.
What happens at the end of the case?
If the qui tam action is successful, the whistleblower is entitled to receive a share of the amount recovered by the government. The share is between 15% and 30% of the total recovery and depends on a number of factors, including whether the government intervened, the quality of the case as presented to the Justice Department, and the work of the whistleblower’s attorney to help the qui tam case succeed.