What Does Qui Tam Mean? Are There Some Common Types of Qui Tam Cases?

Even though Qui Tam sounds a bit like something you might order in an Asian restaurant, it’s actually a Latin term for a type of lawsuit in which a private individual (aka whistleblower) files a lawsuit on behalf of the federal or state government for fraud committed by someone—a company or individual-- that is cheating (i.e., skimming off the top or inflating costs) the government. The private individual usually has proof before the government/business is made aware of it. Its name is actually an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hoc parte sequitur,” which, in English, means, “he who sues for the king as well as for himself.” You can see now why it was shortened to Qui Tam.

Qui Tam is a key part of a long-standing law called the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §3729, et.seq.) The lawsuit allows the informed private citizen, whether affiliated with the government or not, to bring a lawsuit on the government’s behalf, when he or she has first-hand knowledge that someone who does business with the United States knowingly filed false or fraudulent claims to the government. The citizen who brings a qui tam action does not need to have been personally harmed by the wrongdoer’s conduct nor have a relationship to the wrongdoer before a lawsuit is filed. Once a qui tam action is filed, the whistleblower cannot be the target of retaliation, harassment, or fired.

Why bother, then? Besides the fact that it’s the right thing to do, citizens with insider knowledge of false claims, for example in health insurance, military, or other government spending programs, stand to receive a portion (usually about 15-30 percent) of any money recovered by the government.

A Qui Tam lawsuit is a complex area of law. It is not a do-it-yourself action. Contact a seasoned Qui Tam lawyer.

Types of Qui Tam cases

There are several ways to misappropriate government money and cheat. Some of the more common practices include:

  • Mischarging - Mischarging cases involve the filing of false claims for goods or services that were charged for but not provided or delivered. For example, a government contractor might have charged the government for employee labor that was never performed. Another example would be a veteran making a claim for medical services performed by a physician when it was actually performed by a nurse and should have been billed at a lower rate.
  • False Negotiation/Defective Pricing - These types of cases involve the submission of false cost and pricing information to the government during the negotiation of a contract that eventually results in an inflated contract price. For example, a building contractor might quote an overstated price for materials and/or labor.
  • False Documentation for Entitlement of Benefits - These make up the bulk of Qui Tam cases and involve false information being provided on either an individual’s application for government benefits, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc., or a doctor’s fabrication of information on government insurance forms.
  • Product and Service Substitution - This involves the false certification that a product meets specifications, false testing schemes, such as misleadingly certifying that reliability testing was conducted, and then providing an inferior service or shoddy product. Such cases sometimes occur with regard to drugs approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

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