How Does it Work?

Liability for Violating the Federal False Claims Act?
What Happens after the Case is Filed?
What is the “First to File” Requirement?
Will Wrongdoers go to Jail?
Can I Lose any Rights by Informing the Government Before I File Suit?

Liability for Violating the Act?

Federal: Entities that receive United States Government funds, such as corporations, hospitals, universities, cities and counties, are liable for triple damages (that is, up to three times the dollar amount that the United States Government is defrauded) and $5,000 to $11,000 for each false claim, any additional damages related to retaliation against an employee, plus legal fees and costs.

Example of Triple Damages: Let’s say the United States grants (pays) Miami $10 million to build low cost housing. As a condition of the grant, the United States requires the city to meet minimum federal safety and construction standards, which these new houses fail to meet. The city cut corners, claims it complied with the terms of the grant and the city commissioners headed to Paris where they wined and dined using money that should have been spent on bricks and mortar. Damages could be as much as $30 million (triple $10 million), plus any additional damages related to retaliation against the employee who let the federal government know about the cheating, plus legal fees and costs.

Florida: Entities that receive State of Florida funds, such as hospitals, corporations, private universities, who violate the Florida FCA are liable for the same penalties–triple damages plus $5,000 to $10,000 per false claim.

Miami-Dade County: The following questions and answers relate only to the Federal law, and to Florida law when Florida is specifically mentioned. It does not relate to Miami-Dade County’s ordinance. See, Miami-Dade County.

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What Happens after the Case is Filed?

After your lawyer files your complaint in federal district court and serves a copy of your complaint and disclosure statement to the appropriate government representative, your case remains under confidential seal for at least 60 days (for federal cases). This 60-day confidential seal period may be extended if the government requests it. It is not unusual for the seal period to last a few years.

During the confidential seal period, the government investigates your allegations. At the end of the seal period, the government can choose to proceed on its own (to intervene) or to allow your lawyer to prosecute the case without government assistance. The government may change its mind and intervene later or withdraw from intervention.

If the government decides to intervene, it has primary responsibility for prosecuting the case.

After the government decides whether to intervene and the confidential seal period ends, the complaint is served on the defendants. The lawsuit then proceeds in the same way as any other federal civil litigation, except for a few special procedural issues related to this type of litigation.

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What is the “First to File” Requirement?

If the Government or another private party has already filed a False Claims Act lawsuit based on the same allegations as the case you want to file, then you may not proceed with your lawsuit.  If you believe you have a case, you should act quickly. See, How to Contact Jonathan Kroner.

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Will Wrongdoers go to Jail?

No.  A suit under the False Claims Act is a civil action, not a criminal action. Filing a case might trigger a criminal investigation, but this would be separate from your case and you would have no control over it. However, you might be asked to assist in the Government’s criminal action. Also, if the U.S. Attorney opens a criminal investigation your case will be delayed.

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Can I Lose any Rights by Informing the Government before I File Suit?

Yes and No. You do not explicitly give up your rights by going to the Government before filing your lawsuit.

However,  if you believe you have a case, you should act quickly to determine your rights and how you wish to proceed. See, How to Contact Jonathan Kroner.

What about Fraud against Miami-Dade County?

The questions and answers on this site relate only to the federal and Florida laws and not to Miami-Dade County’s false claims ordinance. Fore more information, Miami-Dade Article or here Miami-Dade County.

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