Two of the most commonly invoked bars to recovery by defendants in False Claims Act (FCA) cases are the Act’s statute of limitations and public disclosure bar. The FCA has a six-year statute of limitations, which means that any claims alleging violations of the FCA must be brought within six years of the date on which the alleged violation was committed.
In general, claims that are not brought within six years will be considered time-barred and will be dismissed. However, in certain, very specific instances, the statute of limitations may be put on hold, or tolled. One important way that the FCA’s statute of limitations may be tolled is through the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA), which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held applied to a relator’s FCA suit. When the United States is at war, the WSLA suspends statutes of limitations for fraud offenses related to the war effort for up to three years after the “termination of hostilities.” The WSLA is an important provision for relators who have knowledge of fraud committed against the federal government related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
FCA retaliation claims have a three-year statute of limitations. A claim for retaliation under the FCA must be brought within three years of the date on which the retaliation occurred.
The public disclosure bar mandates that courts dismiss claims that contain substantially the same allegations or transactions that were publicy disclosed in certain federal hearings, reports, or in the news media. However, even if there has been a public disclosure, a claim will not be dismissed if the relator, or whistleblower, is considered an “original source.” An original source is a person who has knowledge that is independent of and materially adds to the publicly disclosed allegations and who provided the information to the government prior to filing suit. Amendments to the FCA in 2010 narrowed the public disclosure bar signifcantly.
If you believe you have a False Claims Act case, contact the Rabon Law Firm for a free consultation.