January 29, 2019 Top Story

Circuit Split Widens in Tolling False Claims Act Cases

Supreme Court grants certiorari after Eleventh Circuit extends limitations period

By Erik A. Christiansen

The U. S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in United States of America ex rel. Billy Joe Hunt v. Cochise Consultancy, Inc. after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held for the first time that private relators in a False Claim Act (FCA) case can extend the six-year statute of limitations for three more years. Relators can expand the limitations period where a responsible government official is unaware of the facts.

In most cases, plaintiffs must file an FCA case within six years

In most cases, plaintiffs must file an FCA case within six years

iStockphoto by Getty Images

Circuit Split Widens on Private Relator Tolling

The FCA is a federal law that imposes liability on persons who defraud the government. Claims can be brought by the government itself or by private “relators” on behalf of the government. In most cases, plaintiffs must file an FCA case within six years. However, where the government is unaware of the wrongful conduct, 31 U.S.C. § 3731(b)(2) expands the statute for an additional three years. At issue in Cochise was whether the three-year extension covers only cases brought by the government, or whether a private relator also can invoke the extension.

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