False Claims Act Statute of Limitations 18 USC 3731Understanding the applicable federal False Claims Act statute of limitations under 31 USC 3729  and 18 USC 3731 can often get the case dismissed if not adhered to by the government. As for any case, facts drive the outcome of any limitations dispute. 

The regulation puts the burden on the federal government to act. Common examples related to whistleblower protection where the government is alleging that a contractor violated the False Claims Act Whistleblower laws include submitting invoices for payment or submitting a traditional claim against the government. When it comes to federal whistleblowers law, Courts look for evidence that supports any of the below legal requirements.

The United States Supreme Court in Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Hunt, stated that the statute of limitations for most False Claims Act (“FCA”) lawsuits—those filed by qui tam relators in which the government does not intervene. The Court held that such suits must be brought within either six years of the FCA violation, under 31 USC 3731(b)(1), or “three years after the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the United States charged with the responsibility to act in the circumstances,” but never “more than 10 years after” the violation, under 31 USC 3731(b)(2).

First, the Court held that “the clear text” dictates that the discovery rule is always available, thus rejecting what had been the majority view 31 USC 3731(b)(2) applies to “[a] civil action under section 3730,” and the Court found “no textual basis to base the [provision’s] meaning … on whether the Government has intervened.” Second, the Court found “no support for reading ‘the official of the United States’ [in § 3731(b)(2)] to encompass a private relator,” thus rejecting the more defendant-friendly view.

As the Court summarized the result, “if the Government discovers [a] fraud on the day it occurred, it would have six years to bring suit, but if a relator instead discovers the fraud on the day it occurred and the Government does not discover it, the relator could have as many as 10 years to bring suit.” Even if this seems anomalous, the Court found the statutory text to compel it. As a result, FCA timeliness arguments are increasingly likely to focus on when “material” facts “reasonably should have been known” to the government and who is the relevant government “official.” See information about criminal liability for false statements under 18 USC 1001.

Federal Civil and Criminal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations 31 USC 3729  and 18 USC 3731

The statute of limitations for a False Claims or Qui Tam defense action is found in 18 USC 3731(b) of the United States Code.

“A civil action under section 3730 may not be brought—

(1) more than 6 years after the date on which the violation of section 3729 is committed, or

(2) more than 3 years after the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the United States charged with responsibility to act in the circumstances, but in no event more than 10 years after the date on which the violation is committed, whichever occurs last.”

Keep in mind that under federal whistleblower law, government contracting agencies often seek to hold prime contractors liable for the acts of their subcontractors. This can be a tough pill to swallow. Nevertheless, case law supports this fact.

Under 31 USC 3731(b)(1), an FCA action must be brought within six years after the date the defendant committed the violation. This limitations period assumes that the qui tam whistleblower or the federal government has actual knowledge of the violation. A common problem for criminal defense attorneys is figuring out the proper date on which the false claims violation was committed.

Most federal courts may consider the statute of limitations dates by looking at the actual dates that the claim is submitted to the date of submission of the claim is the trigger date for the six-year statute of limitations. In other situations, the statute of limitations may be the date that the government pays the claim. Defense lawyers should see what their specific court decides.

False Claims Act Retaliation Statute of Limitations

The False Claims Act retaliation statute of limitations is three years from the date on which the retaliation occurred. Employees or other third parties must meet this deadline.  A person can file FCA retaliation claims directly in federal court without the headache of administrative exhaustion requirements.

False claims act retaliation statute of limitations: The statute of limitations for whistleblower retaliation actions under the FCA is three years from the time of the retaliation.

See 6 Things Contractors Should Be Aware of in Qui Tam Lawsuits & False Claims Act Lawsuits.

18 USC 3730 – 31 USC 3731 – False claims procedure

(a) A subpoena requiring the attendance of a witness at a trial or hearing conducted under section 3730 of this title may be served at any place in the United States.

(b)A civil action under section 3730 may not be brought—

(1)more than 6 years after the date on which the violation of section 3729 is committed, or
(2)more than 3 years after the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the United States charged with the responsibility to act in the circumstances, but in no event more than 10 years after the date on which the violation is committed,
whichever occurs last.
(c)If the Government elects to intervene and proceed with an action brought under 3730(b),[1] the Government may file its own complaint or amend the complaint of a person who has brought an action under section 3730(b) to clarify or add detail to the claims in which the Government is intervening and to add any additional claims with respect to which the Government contends it is entitled to relief. For statute of limitations purposes, any such Government pleading shall relate back to the filing date of the complaint of the person who originally brought the action, to the extent that the claim of the Government arises out of the conduct, transactions, or occurrences set forth, or attempted to be set forth, in the prior complaint of that person.
(d)In any action brought under section 3730, the United States shall be required to prove all essential elements of the cause of action, including damages, by a preponderance of the evidence.
(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, or the Federal Rules of Evidence, a final judgment rendered in favor of the United States in any criminal proceeding charging fraud or false statements, whether upon a verdict after trial or upon a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, shall estop the defendant from denying the essential elements of the offense in any action which involves the same transaction as in the criminal proceeding and which is brought under subsection (a) or (b) of section 3730.

Whistleblower Protection for Companies

It only takes one innocent situation to bring your company under intense scrutiny for violation of federal whistleblower law. Always consult a Federal False Claims Act lawyer to make sure that rules have not changed and that you as a company have ample whistleblower protection under the laws in your favor.

The U.S. Supreme Court addressed two important questions under the Federal False Claims Act 31 USC 3729. It decided that (1) the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA), 18 USC 3287, applies only to criminal cases, and (2) the FCA’s first-to-file bar, 31 USC 3730(b)(5), ceases to apply once the earlier-filed action that might have created the bar has been dismissed. See what is a Qui Tam Relator.

Other court decisions: In United States ex rel. Sansbury v. LB&B Associates, Inc., No. 07-251 (D.D.C. July 16, 2014) the court decided that a civil action under section 3730 may not be brought– (1) more than six years after the date on which the violation of section 3729 is committed, or (2) more than three years after the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the United States charged with the responsibility to act in the circumstances, but in no event more than 10 years after the date on which the violation is committed, whichever occurs last. 31 USC 3731(b).

The Act further states that “[f]or statute of limitations purposes, any . . . Government pleading shall relate back to the filing date of the complaint of the person who originally brought the action, to the extent that the claim of the Government arises out of the conduct, transactions, or occurrences set forth, or attempted to be set forth, in the prior complaint of that person.” 13 USC 3731(c).

Federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations and qui tam action is found in Section 3731(b) of the FCA: “A civil action under section 3730 may not be brought:

(1) more than 6 years after the date on which the violation of 31 USC 3729 is committed, or
(2) more than 3 years after the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the United States charged with the responsibility to act in the circumstances, but in no event more than 10 years after the date on which the violation is committed, whichever occurs last.” See information about False Claims Acts defenses for contractors in litigation.

Sometimes federal agencies may try to suggest why the False Claims Act Statute of Limitations should be tolled. However, the defendants would be in a better position than if the defense was not raised at all. Read more about federal false claims act penalties.

If you are a government contractor looking for a False Claims Act & Whistleblower Lawyer or are seeking legal counsel to address matters pertaining to the federal False Claims Act Statute of Limitations under 18 USC 3731, call the law firm of Watson & Associates, LLC  and speak to Theodore Watson at 1-866-601-5518 for cost-effective government contractor defense services.

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