In the Southeastern United States (the 11th Circuit federal court jurisdiction), some whistleblowers can now go back as far as 10 years to collect damages, not just 6 years as is the case in some other parts of the country. According to the language of the False Claims Act, qui tam cases can be filed within the later of (A) 6 years from the date on which the fraud on the USA is committed, or (B) 3 years from the date when the government learned of or should have learned of the fraud, but in no case more than 10 years after the date on which the fraud occurred. See False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3731(b)(1) – (b)(2). Other federal circuits (such as the 9th and 10th Circuits which include the states along the west coast, Hawaii and Alaska (9th Circuit) and the western part of the U.S. between the Midwest and the west coast (10th Circuit)) only allow whistleblowers to use the shorter 6-year limitations period so they can only collect damages that accrued within 6 years of filing their case. Yesterday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case named, United States ex rel. Hunt v. Cochise Consultancy, Inc., 2018 WL 1736788 (11th Cir. Apr. 11, 2018), departed from the other Circuit Court rulings and decided that whistleblowers in cases in which the government does not intervene and take over the case (in other words, “declined” qui tam cases) can use the longer 10-year period for filing and collecting damages. So if the fraud occurred 10 years ago, whistleblowers in declined cases can recover damages for that entire ten-year period (rather than just going back 6 years) if the whistleblower filed his or her qui tam within 3 years from the date on which the United States learned of or should have learned of the fraud. The Hunt case decision is a game changer for whistleblowers who file in the 11th Circuit because the longer limitations period allows them to pursue more damages from the defendant.
This article was drafted by Wilbanks & Gouinlock, LLP and is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.