Supreme Court Appears Supportive in False Claims Act Statute of Limitations Case
Washington, D.C. March 19, 2019. Today the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments in the case of Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. United States, ex rel. Hunt. The Court agreed to hear this case to settle a three-way splint between circuits. The split concerns whether FCA relators may rely on the statute of limitations in 31 U.S.C. § 3731(b)(2)— if so, whether the three-year limitations period in 31 U.S.C. §3731(b)(2) begins to run from the date of the relator’s knowledge of the alleged false claim, or from the date of the responsible government official’s knowledge of the alleged false claim—when the government does not intervene.
Whistleblower lawyer Stephen M. Kohn, a founding partner of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, and the principal author of an amicus brief submitted on behalf of the National Whistleblower Center, attended today’s oral argument. “The Justices appeared to understand the purpose of the False Claims Act is to help the government uncover fraud and were skeptical of interpreting the statute of limitations in a manner that would help fraudsters,” Kohn said.
Demonstrating the Courts understanding as to why Congress would have wanted a longer statute of limitations when the relator moves a False Claims Act case forward, even without the government, Justice Sotomayor noted that, “in qui tam the recovery in bulk goes to the government.”
Justice Gorsuch added that to adopt the corporation’s position would be “quite a feat.” Justice Roberts stated that relators know that they must “move promptly” due to the first to file rule. Justice Gorsuch agreed stating “Congress wanted to ensure that relators act quickly.”
When counsel for the corporation tried to argue that the court should ignore the plain text of the statute, Justice Kavanaugh interjected, “Where is the ambiguity?”
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