July 9, 2015 — If you have been speaking to various qui tam attorneys to determine which attorney you would like to represent you, then you may have heard them quote a rather long average of time for case resolution. This article will address the various reasons why qui tam cases on average take longer to resolve than most lawsuits.
The government needs time to investigate
To commence a lawsuit, your attorney will first provide a disclosure statement prior to filing the complaint under seal in federal court. These two steps are vital and essential to all qui tam cases. Most statutes then permit an initial 60 days for the case to remain under seal while the government attorneys investigate. If your case has merit, then 60 days is not enough time for the government to complete its investigation. It is very common for the government to seek an additional 6 month extension of the seal, and then additional seal extensions typically in 6 month increments until it has determined whether it will intervene.
Depending on the jurisdiction where the case is filed and the judge to whom the case is filed, the case may remain under seal for years while the government conducts its investigation. On average, Assistant U.S. Attorneys have estimated that they have between 30-50 cases that they are investigating contemporaneously to litigating at least one or two cases. This is a very heavy case load. This is one of the reasons why qui tam cases take a long time to resolve.
Qui Tam cases get a slow start to litigation
After the government makes a decision about intervention, the case may branch off into several various outcomes. If the government’s investigation resulted in findings that your case is meritorious, the government may attempt to settle the case or litigate the case if it is unable to come to a settlement agreement with the defendant. The government may also elect to decline intervention at the time citing that it does not have the resources to litigate the case. Without government intervention, you and your attorneys can evaluate whether the case is one that ought to be litigated, in which case, it may take even longer to resolve the case as most defendants will at least attempt to get the Court to dismiss the case when the government has not intervened. Because all qui tam cases are filed under seal, they get a slow start to litigation. Consequently, qui tam cases take 5-7 years, on average to resolve. It is important to keep this in mind when filing a qui tam case.
Louisa Kirakosian is an attorney at Waters & Kraus, in the firm’s Los Angeles office. She represents whistleblowers who have uncovered fraud against the government in the pharmaceutical, Medicare/Medicaid, and government contracting industries.