Whistleblower often inquiry about how long after a party defrauds the government do they have to file a false claims act. There is not a quick and simple answer to this question. The statute provides that a civil action under the False Claims Act must be brought within six years of the violation or within three years of the date when the government learned or should have learned the facts material to the violation, whichever is later. In no event may an action be brought after ten years of a violation. Specifically, the language of the statute states:
(b) A civil action under may not be brought—
(1) more than 6 years after the date on which the violation of 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.
Note that there is a difference between section (b)(1) and (b)(2). Under section (b)(1), the statute of limitations begins to run when the violation occurs, whereas under section (b)(2), it begins to run when the appropriate person learned or should have learned facts putting him on notice of a possible violation. The 6 year statute of limitations of (b)(1) is generally going to be the applicable statute. However, the statute can be “tolled” if it is discovered by the appropriate party later. So, for example, if discovered 5 years after the fraud, the statute of limitations would be extended from 6 years to 8 years (3 years after discovery in year 5). There is an open question, and a split in the courts, as to whether the tolling provisions should apply to a private individual bringing a whistleblower action when the government has not intervened, or whether it is restricted to the government.
In the next post, I will discuss a 4th Circuit Court of appeals ruling that raises another issue that the statute of limitations is tolled because of the fact that the United States has been at “war.”
If you have any questions about the False Claims Act and its statute of limitations, feel free to contact us.