§661-27 Awards to qui tam plaintiffs. (a) If the State proceeds with an action brought by a person under section 661-25, the person shall receive at least fifteen per cent but not more than twenty-five per cent of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim, depending upon the extent to which the person substantially contributed to the prosecution of the action. Where the action is one that the court finds to be based primarily on disclosures of specific information, other than information provided by the person bringing the action, relating to allegations or transactions in a criminal, civil, or administrative hearing, in a legislative or administrative report, hearing, audit, or investigation, or from the news media, the court may award sums as it considers appropriate, but in no case more than ten per cent of the proceeds, taking into account the significance of the information and the role of the person bringing the action in advancing the case to litigation. Any payment to a person under this subsection shall be made from the proceeds. The person shall also receive an amount for reasonable expenses that the court finds to have been necessarily incurred, plus reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. All expenses, fees, and costs shall be awarded against the defendant.
(b) If the State proceeds with an action brought under section 661-21, the State may file its own complaint or amend the complaint of a person who has brought an action under section 661-21 to clarify or add detail to the claims in which the State is intervening and to add any additional claims with respect to which the State contends it is entitled to relief. For statute of limitations purposes, any such state pleading shall relate back to the filing date of the complaint of the person who originally brought the action, to the extent that the claim of the State arises out of the conduct, transactions, or occurrences set forth, or attempted to be set forth, in the prior complaint of that person.
(c) If the State does not proceed with an action under this section, the person bringing the action or settling the claim shall receive an amount that the court decides is reasonable for collecting the civil penalty and damages. The amount shall be not less than twenty-five per cent and not more than thirty per cent of the proceeds of the action or settlement and shall be paid out of the proceeds. The person shall also receive an amount for reasonable expenses that the court finds to have been necessarily incurred, plus reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. All expenses, fees, and costs shall be awarded against the defendant.
(d) Whether or not the State proceeds with the action, if the court finds that the action was brought by a person who planned and initiated the violation of section 661-21 upon which the action was brought, then the court may, to the extent the court considers appropriate, reduce the share of the proceeds of the action that the person would otherwise receive under subsection (a), taking into account the role of that person in advancing the case to litigation and any relevant circumstances pertaining to the violation. If the person bringing the action is convicted of criminal conduct arising from the person's role in the violation of section 661-21, that person shall be dismissed from the civil action and shall not receive any share of the proceeds of the action. The dismissal shall not prejudice the right of the State to continue the action.
(e) If the State does not proceed with the action and the person bringing the action conducts the action, the court may award to the defendant its reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses if the defendant prevails in the action and the court finds that the claim of the person bringing the action was frivolous, vexatious, or brought primarily for purposes of harassment.
(f) In no event may a person bring an action under section 661-25:
(1) Against a member of the state senate or state house of representatives, a member of the judiciary, or an elected official in the executive branch of the State, if the action is based on evidence or information known to the State. For purposes of this section, evidence or information known only to the person or persons against whom an action is brought shall not be considered to be known to the State; or
(2) That is based upon allegations or transactions that are the subject of a civil suit or an administrative civil money penalty proceeding in which the State is already a party. [L 2000, c 126, pt of §1; am L 2012, c 294, §7]