Qui tam lawsuits are a kind of civil lawsuit whistleblowers bring under the False Claims Act. This is a law that compensates whistleblowers if their qui tam cases recover funds that have been acquired fraudulently.
What is Qui Tam?
Qui tam cases are an effective way for whistleblowers to help the government stop various kinds of fraud such as Medicare and Medicaid fraud, defense contractor fraud and many other kinds of fraud that affects the government financially. The results may be the recovery of billions that may have been stolen from the U.S. Treasury and taxpayers.
The False Claims Act rewards whistleblowers when their qui tam lawsuits recover government funds and provides job protection to these whistleblowers due to the professional as well as personal risk they take to expose and stop fraud against the government.
Under the False Claims Act, a private citizen may sue an individual or a business that is defrauding the government and recover funds on behalf of the government. The qui tam lawsuit is filed “under seal.” This means it is kept secret from everyone but the government to allow the Justice Department time to examine the allegations.
When a person has evidence of fraud against the government and decides to act on that evidence, that individual should have a lawyer to represent him or her. The government will investigate the allegations, often with the aid of the whistleblower’s attorney and at that point decide whether it will “intervene” in the case.
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Under the False Claims Act, defendants who are found liable may have to pay as much as three times the government’s losses in addition to penalties for each false claim.
The financial reward the whistleblower receives depends on many factors. If the government intervenes in the cases and recovers funds through a settlement or trial, the “relator” or whistleblower, is entitled to 15 to 25 percent of the recovery. If the government does not intervene in the case, the whistleblower and his/her team’s reward may be between 25 and 30 percent of the recovery.
Every human being has the right to expect medical treatment that is safe and lives up to strict regulation. However, at times, healthcare companies try to circumvent the rules, putting the health and lives of the patients under their care, at risk. In cases such as these, healthcare whistleblowers are the people who are aware of alleged wrongdoing and alert authorities. They are the champions who step in and hold wrongdoers accountable. This is a good thing for patients for their protection, and for the whistleblowers who can earn money for exposing illegal activities.
In a recent case, one whistleblower will receive about $430,000 for reporting the illegal activity of Baxter Healthcare Corp. Baxter will pay over $18 million to settle numerous allegations concerning mold at its Marion facility, exposed by the healthcare whistleblower, according to the Citizen-Times (1/13/17).
The Marion plant was reportedly used by Baxter to make pharmaceutical drugs and a variety of medical therapies, including renal therapies. In 2011 and 2012, the whistleblower discovered mold on air filters in the vicinity of some of the machines involved in manufacturing Baxter therapies, in rooms that were meant to be sterile. Although supervisors were notified of concerns about mold, the filters were not changed for approximately 16 months. When the whistleblower tried to change the filters, he was told to stop. The whistleblower continued to document issues concerning the mold and informed attorneys about the issue. The attorneys reported the issue to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The employees at the facility were told not to describe the filters as having mold, but were to instead use words such as “stain” and “discoloration” to describe the filters, according to McDowell News (1/13/17).
“Following current Good Manufacturing Practices is essential to ensure the safety and efficacy of our drugs,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division in a news release. “Today’s settlement shows that the government will continue to hold companies accountable for failing to fulfill this critically important responsibility.”
The whistleblower is still employed at the Baxter Marion plant, even though several plant managers lost their jobs after the mold issue was exposed. Even though there have been no reports of harm or injuries linked to the moldy filters, mold can be fatal and regulations are in place to prevent potential contamination of drugs and other therapies.
Whistleblowers who report illegal activity of healthcare may be eligible to share in money recovered from those companies, with similar compensation to the government whistleblower lawsuits.
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