On Monday, December 15, 2014, a California federal court judge dismissed a False Claims Act (“FCA”) whistleblower law suit because the plaintiff (or as referred to as a relator in FCA cases) did not adequately specify the government contracts the defendant allegedly violated. In this law suit, a UPS worker alleged that the UPS violated the FCA by shipping the government’s products via ground transportation while the UPS contracted to ship them by the more expensive air service. (For more information, see U.S. ex rel. Mark Defatta v. United Parcel Service Inc. et al.)
As a reference, the California FCA (Government Code Section 12650-12656) is modeled after the federal FCA and cases may overlap if both the federal government and California state government funds are involved. Specifically, California Department of Justice’s Office of the Attorney General has an FCA Unit that enforces the FCA and prosecutes FCA violations. (See Attorney General’s Office web site for more information here: http://oag.ca.gov/cfs/falseclaims.) As painfully experienced above by the relator, the person who brings the FCA law suit must do so with enough specifics or the court will dismiss the case. Here are some basics that any person interested in bringing one of these actions must know.
To prove that an organization committed FCA violations, a plaintiff whistleblower must prove each of the following three (3) elements by a preponderance of the evidence (in other words, one side has to be just a bit greater than the other to prove its case). First, the plaintiff/relator must prove that the defendant made a claim or a statement to get the government to pay money on a claim. Second, the claim or statement was false or fraudulent. Finally, the defendant knew that the claim or statement was false or fraudulent. “False” has to be more than just “not true.” The defendant must have intentionally tried to cheat, or lie to, the government. Therefore, the plaintiff/relator must provide enough evidence where a reasonable jury can find that the claim, or statement to get the government to pay, was objectively false. See https://www.employmentattorneyca.com/ for more information.