What Is The Qui Tam Statute of Limitations?

Like other types of legal claims, qui tam actions have a statute of limitations beyond which cases may not be filed. This statute of limitations appears in 31 U.S. Code § 3731(b), which provides that qui tam actions must be brought within either:

  • Six years from the date of the violation, or
  • Three years from when the violation was discovered or should have been discovered but no longer than 10 years from when it was committed.

In order to determine the appropriate statute of limitations period, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler will evaluate when you first became aware of the violation, which is what courts examine.

What happens when the government intervenes?

In some cases, the government will intervene in a False Claims Act case by amending your complaint or by filing its own. For the purposes of the statute of limitations, the government’s complaint or amendment to yours will be considered to relate back to the date on which your attorney filed your FCA complaint.

The six-year time limit

The six-year qui tam statute of limitations that is provided under the law assumes that either you or the government had knowledge of the illegal act. The primary issue will be determining when the violation of the law was committed. Some courts hold that the statute of limitations period begins to run at the time that the claim was paid. Others hold that the limitations period begins to run when the fraudulent claim is submitted.

Three-year tolling

The law contains a tolling provision that was enacted by Congress in 1986. Under this rule, an action under the FCA may not be filed later than three years after the time when an official became aware of the violation or of when they should have been aware of it. Most courts assume that the official that is referenced in the law is official within the Department of Justice. Other courts have held that an official may also include officials in other government agencies. Courts differ in whether or not they believe that qui tam whistleblowers are able to use the three-year tolling provision.

If you have uncovered evidence of widespread fraud against the government, it is important for you to act swiftly. If you miss the limitations period deadline, you may not be able to recover a whistleblower award. Contact the attorneys at Swartz Swidler to schedule your consultation so that you can learn more about your rights and the qui tam statute of limitations.