What is Qui Tam?

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Some people visit this site as part of a Google search just to learn the meaning of the term “Qui Tam.”


“Qui tam” is an abbreviation of a Latin phrase for “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitir”,meaning, “who as well for the king as for himself sues in this matter.” An individual bring a qui tam action on behalf of the Government is known as a “Relator.”


An action brought by an informer, under a statute which establishes a penalty for the commission or omission of a certain act, and provides that the same shall be recoverable in a civil action, part of the penalty to go to any person who will bring such action and the remainder to the state or some other institution. BLACK S LAW DICTIONARY (6th Ed. 1991).


Qui tam provisions first became popular in thirteenth century England. They permitted private individuals to bring suit on behalf of the King and served as a supplemental to official law enforcement. In 1863, in order to combat fraud and price gouging of the Union Army during the civil war, Congress passed the False Claims Act of 1863,which included qui tam provisions.


If you are still reading this, here’s a fairly short version of the long history of the False Claims Act (and its qui tam provisions) in the U.S. (Which we largely adopted verbatim from the U.S. Appellate Court for the D.C. Circuit in its opinion cited as 304 U.S. App. D.C. 347.

The False Claims Act was first adopted in 1863 during the Civil War in order to combat fraud and price-gouging in war procurement contracts. In addition to creating civil and criminal penalties for fraud, the Act allowed any person to bring suit against the offending profiteers under its qui tam provisions, promising successful qui tam plaintiffs one-half of the damages and forfeitures ultimately recovered and collected.

The 1863 Act required qui tam plaintiffs to bear the costs of their litigation efforts, in order to discourage frivolous lawsuits. However, it contained no requirement that the allegations of fraud originate from the investigative efforts of the plaintiffs themselves, and it did not prohibit plaintiffs from bringing suits based exclusively on information that was already in the government’s possession. Despite this invitation for abuse, the qui tam provisions were used sparingly during their first half-century.

In 1943, however, after a decade in which New Deal and World War II government contracts boomed and qui tam suits correspondingly surged, the Supreme Court in United States ex rel. Marcus v. Hess, 317 U.S. 537, 87 L. Ed. 443, 63 S. Ct. 379 (1943), spotlighted the pitfalls of the overly generous qui tam provisions then in effect. In Hess, a qui tam relator brought suit under the 1863 Act alleging that electrical contractors had engaged in collusive bidding on government contracts, merely copying the government s previous indictment (bringing no new information to the table).

The Supreme Court’s decision found no impediment to such a (parasitic) lawsuit, inspiring public outcry over the liberality of the qui tam provisions, prompting speedy congressional response. Eleven months after the opinion was handed down, President Roosevelt signed more restrictive amendments to the False Claims Act. The amendments were the product of careful compromise: the House bill would have repealed the qui tam provisions altogether, while the Senate bill barred qui tam jurisdiction for suits based on information already in possession of the government unless the information was “original with such person.” The new statutory barriers passed by Congress substantially decreased the use of qui tam provisions to enforce the FCA.

In the wake of a GAO reporting estimating government fraud at 10% of spending, a National Association of Attorneys General resolution urging Congress to rectify the unfortunate result of a case which demonstrated the overly restrictive amendments passed in 1943, and other factors. Congress responded with the False Claims Act Amendment Act of 1986, the avowed purpose of which was to enhance the Government’s ability to recover losses sustained as a result of fraud against the Government. Concerned about sophisticated and widespread fraud depleting the national fisc, the Senate Report concluded that only a coordinated effort of both the Government and the citizenry will decrease this wave of defrauding public funds.

Want to file a claim?

Nolan & Auerbach, P.A. is a qui tam law firm whose practice is uniquely limited to healthcare fraud cases under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. We know healthcare fraud because that’s what we do! Toll free: 800-FRAUD 04

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