Our Top-Rated Whistleblower Attorney Handles Qui Tam Claims in New Jersey
If you’ve discovered that your employer or another business defrauded or stole from the New Jersey or federal government, you need to take immediate action. Each of these jurisdictions has enacted a False Claims Act that allows employees to assert a Qui tam (pronounced kwī tam) claim on the government’s behalf.
In a Qui tam lawsuit, an employee or anyone else can file a civil lawsuit against a business for defrauding the government. If the lawsuit succeeds, the employee or other person may receive a percentage of the government’s recovery. It is one of the most important whistleblower protections in the country.
At Zatuchni & Associates, our whistleblower lawyer has the skills and experience to represent employees in Qui tam claims in New Jersey. If you or your loved one is considering making a disclosure, we can help. To set up a free, fully confidential consultation with a top-rated New Jersey Qui tam lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact our law office today.
The False Claims Act
The False Claims Act is a federal law that makes it illegal for a person, company, or organization to knowingly defraud the federal government or a federal program. Indeed, it is the primary legal tool that federal authorities have to stop fraud and recover compensation for damages. Among other things, False Claims Act violations include:
- Knowingly presenting a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval;
- Knowingly making or using a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim; or
- Conspiring to commit any of the other acts prohibited by the False Claims Act.
The False Claims Act imposes severe consequences on those who violate it. First, violators are subject to a civil penalty of up to more than $22,000. In addition, the violator will have to pay the government three times the damages caused by the violation.
New Jersey has enacted their own state statutes based on (and named after) the federal False Claims Act. These versions vary in the specifics, but all contain a Qui tam provision. That provision authorizes whistleblowers to file a Qui tam case against anyone who violates the relevant False Claims Act.
What is a Qui Tam Lawsuit?
In a Qui tam lawsuit, a private person (called the Qui tam relator or just relator) sues on behalf of the government for violations of the False Claims Act by another person. Here are four important things to know about Qui tam lawsuits and whistleblower protections:
- Qui tam Actions Help Stop Fraud: In many cases, employees or other insiders are the only individuals with knowledge (or suspicions) that fraud is occurring. Qui tam protections allow employees and other people to blow the whistle on misconduct. For reference, a 2019 study by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) found that more than 70 percent of False Claims Act cases are initiated by whistleblowers.
- Anyone Can File a Qui tam Lawsuit: You do not have to be an employee to file a Qui tam lawsuit. Although a large percentage of claims are filed by employees, any party with knowledge of fraud against a federal/state program can bring a claim. This includes independent contractors and others with inside information.
- The Government Must Be Notified: After filing a Qui tam lawsuit, the relator must notify the government that he or she has done so. Failure to properly notify the government and follow other required Qui tam procedures could adversely affect your rights. At that point, the government can investigate and decide whether it wants to take over the case. Whether or not the government does so depends on a wide variety of different factors.
- Whistleblowers Can Recover Compensation: Regardless of the government’s decision, however, the relator stands to benefit from bringing the case. For one thing, he or she can be proud of having helped the government put a stop to illegal conduct. But in addition, a relator is entitled to receive a percentage of the amounts recovered by the government as the result of a successful Qui tam lawsuit. The precise percentage varies but can be as high as 30%. Also, the defendant will have to reimburse the relator for his or her reasonable expenses, court costs, and attorneys’ fees.
Common Qui Tam Cases
Whistleblowers can bring Qui tam cases in the context of a wide range of government programs and activities. Some of the most common Qui tam cases involve:
- Medicare or Medicaid fraud, including fraudulent billing by a doctor, hospital, or other health-care professional or organization;
- Fraud in federal or state contracts, such as defense or construction contracts; and
- False certifications made to the federal government.
Every fraud claim is unique. Bad-acting businesses, organizations, and individuals are always coming up with new strategies to take improper advantage of federal and state programs. If you are considering filing a False Claims Act complaint, an experienced New Jersey Qui tam lawyer can help you review the matter.
What About Retaliation?
Many employees are reluctant to file a lawsuit or otherwise act as a whistleblower, believing that their employer may retaliate against them for doing so. Unfortunately, these are all legitimate concerns. In far too many cases, employers unlawfully take adverse action against whistleblowers who make protected disclosures to state or federal regulators or law enforcement. There is good news: The federal and New Jersey False Claims Acts all prohibit any such retaliation. For example, under federal law, an employer that retaliates against a whistleblower employee is liable for:
- Reinstatement with the same seniority status for the employee;
- Two times the amount of back pay, plus interest on the back pay; and
- Any special damages caused by the retaliation, including litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.
(In New Jersey, whistleblowing employees are also protected against retaliation by the Conscientious Employee Protection Act.) If you or your loved one was subject to illegal whistleblower retaliation after making a protected disclosure under the False Claims Act or any other state or federal law, you need to take immediate action. Contact an experienced New Jersey workplace retaliation attorney for help with your case.
Note: You do not have to bring a successful Qui tam action to be protected by retaliation laws. In New Jersey, employers are strictly forbidden from taking adverse action against an employee who makes a good faith disclosure of a suspected False Claims Act violation. You are protected against retaliation even if the government finds no fraud or declines to pursue the matter.
How New Jersey Qui tam Lawyer David Zatuchni Can Help
If you have evidence of a False Claims Act violation, you can benefit from seeking professional legal representation. We are ready to evaluate the merits of your case and help you determine the best path forward. Qui tam procedures are complicated, requiring service of your complaint and other material information in your possession on the Justice Department. Failure to follow those procedures could cause you to lose your rights as a Qui tam relator. As an experienced employment law and whistleblower rights attorney, David Zatuchni has the skills and knowledge to protect your rights and help you maximize your financial recovery. When you get in touch with our employment law firm, you will have an opportunity to speak to a New Jersey Qui tam attorney who will:
- Conduct a comprehensive, confidential assessment of your Qui tam claim;
- Answer your questions and provide a step-by-step explanation of what comes next; and
- Take all necessary legal action to protect you and get you the best outcome.
Many of our clients come to us with little to no knowledge of the False Claims Act or other whistleblower laws. We take seriously our job to educate them on the False Claims Act, including the benefits of filing a Qui tam lawsuit and the law’s protections against retaliation by an employer. Our team will help you understand your rights and determine the appropriate next steps. We have a history of successful settlements and verdicts across a wide range of employment law matters, including a $3.2 million verdict in a whistleblower lawsuit and a $200,000 settlement in a whistleblower claim.
Call Our New Jersey Qui tam Attorneys for Immediate Help
At Zatuchni & Associates, our New Jersey employment lawyer has the skills, experience, and legal expertise to represent you in a Qui tam claim. If you have any questions about state or federal whistleblower laws, we are more than ready to help. Call us now for a free, strictly confidential review of your case. With legal offices in Morristown and Lambertville, we handle qui tam actions throughout New Jersey.