Qui Tam Actions; Counties
Broadens recovery of false claims to the State to include the counties. (HB160 CD1)
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TWENTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2001
STATE OF HAWAII
A BILL FOR AN ACT
RELATING TO FRAUDULENT CLAIMS.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1. Chapter 46, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new part to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:
"PART . QUI TAM ACTIONS OR RECOVERY OF
FALSE CLAIMS TO THE COUNTIES
§46-A Actions for false claims to the counties; qui tam actions. (a) Any person who:
shall be liable to the county for a civil penalty of not less than $5,000 and not more than $10,000, plus three times the amount of damages that the county sustains due to the act of that person.
(b) If the court finds that a person who has violated subsection (a):
the court may assess not less than two times the amount of damages that the county sustains because of the act of the person. A person violating subsection (a), shall also be liable to the county for the costs and attorneys' fees of a civil action brought to recover the penalty or damages.
(c) Liability under this section shall be joint and several for any act committed by two or more persons.
(d) This section shall not apply to any controversy involving an amount of less than $500 in value. For purposes of this subsection, "controversy" means the aggregate of any one or more false claims submitted by the same person in violation of this part. Proof of specific intent to defraud is not required.
(e) For purposes of this section:
"Claim" includes any request or demand, whether under a contract or otherwise, for money or property that is made to a contractor, grantee, or other recipient if the county provides any portion of the money or property that is requested or demanded, or if the government will reimburse the contractor, grantee, or other recipient for any portion of the money or property that is requested or demanded.
"Knowing" and "knowingly" means that a person, with respect to information:
and no proof of specific intent to defraud is required.
§46-B Civil actions for false claims. The county corporation counsel or county attorney shall investigate any violation under section 46-A. If the corporation counsel or county attorney finds that a person has violated or is violating section 46-A, the corporation counsel or county attorney may bring a civil action under this section.
§46-C Evidentiary determination; burden of proof. A determination that a person has violated this part shall be based on a preponderance of the evidence.
§46-D Statute of limitations. An action for false claims to a county pursuant to this part shall be brought within six years after the false claim is discovered or by exercise of reasonable diligence should have been discovered and, in any event, no more than ten years after the date on which the violation of section 46-A is committed.
§46-E Action by private persons. (a) A person may bring a civil action for a violation of section 46-A for the person and for a county. The action shall be brought in the name of the county. The action may be dismissed only with the written consent of the court, taking into account the best interests of the parties involved and the public purposes behind this part.
(b) A copy of the complaint and written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information the person possesses shall be served on the county in accordance with the Hawaii rules of civil procedure. The complaint:
(1) Shall be filed in camera;
(2) Shall remain under seal for at least sixty days; and
(3) Shall not be served on the defendant until the court so orders.
The county may elect to intervene and proceed with the action within sixty days after it receives both the complaint and the material evidence and information.
(c) The county, for good cause shown, may move the court for extensions of the time during which the complaint remains under seal under subsection (b). Any such motions may be supported by affidavits or other submissions in camera. The defendant shall not be required to respond to any complaint filed under this section until twenty days after the complaint is unsealed and served upon the defendant in accordance with the Hawaii rules of civil procedure.
(d) Before the expiration of the sixty-day period or any extension obtained, the county shall:
(e) When a person brings an action under this section, no person other than the county may intervene or bring a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action.
§46-F Rights of parties to qui tam actions. (a) If a county proceeds with an action under section 46-E, the county shall have the primary responsibility for prosecuting the action and shall not be bound by an act of the person bringing the action. The person shall have the right to continue as a party to the action, subject to the following limitations:
(b) The defendant, by motion upon the court, may show that unrestricted participation during the course of the litigation by the person initiating the action would be for purposes of harassment or would cause the defendant undue burden or unnecessary expense. At the court's discretion, the court may limit the participation by the person in the litigation.
(c) If the county elects not to proceed with the action, the person who initiated that action shall have the right to conduct the action. If the county so requests, it shall be served with copies of all pleadings filed in the action and shall be supplied with copies of all deposition transcripts at the county's expense. When a person proceeds with the action, the court, without limiting the status and rights of the person initiating the action, may nevertheless permit the county to intervene at a later date upon showing of good cause.
(d) Regardless of whether the county proceeds with the action, upon motion and a showing by the county that certain actions of discovery by the person initiating the action would interfere with the county's investigation or prosecution of a criminal or civil matter arising out of the same facts, the court may stay the discovery for a period of not more than sixty days. The court may extend the sixty-day period upon a motion and showing by the county that the county has pursued the investigation or prosecution of the criminal or civil matter with reasonable diligence and the proposed discovery would interfere with the ongoing investigation or prosecution of the criminal or civil matter.
(e) Notwithstanding section 46-E, the county may elect to pursue its claim through any alternate remedy available to the county, including any administrative proceedings to determine civil monetary penalties. If any alternate remedy is pursued in another proceeding, the person initiating the action shall have the same rights in the proceedings as the person would have had if the action had continued under this section. Any finding of fact or conclusion of law made in the other proceeding that becomes final shall be conclusive on all parties to an action under this section.
(f) Regardless of whether the county elects to proceed with the action, the parties to the action shall receive court approval of any settlements reached.
§46-G Awards to qui tam plaintiffs. (a) If a county proceeds with an action brought by a person under section
46-E, 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 county 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.
(c) Regardless of whether the county proceeds with the action, if the court finds that the action was brought by a person who planned and initiated the violation of section 46-A upon which the action was brought, then the court, to the extent the court considers appropriate, may 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 46-A, 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 county to continue the action.
(d) If the county 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.
(e) In no event may a person bring an action under section 46-E:
(1) Against any elected official of the county, if the action is based on evidence or information known to the county. 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 county;
(2) When the person is a present or former employee of the county and the action is based upon information discovered by the employee during the course of the employee's employment, unless the employee first, in good faith, exhausted any existing internal procedures for reporting and seeking recovery of the falsely claimed sums through official channels and the county failed to act on the information provided within a reasonable period of time; or
(3) That is based upon allegations or transactions that are the subject of a civil or criminal investigation by the county, civil suit, or an administrative civil money penalty proceeding in which the county is already a party.
§46-H Jurisdiction. (a) No court shall have jurisdiction over an action under this part based upon the public disclosure of 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, unless the action is brought by a county corporation counsel or county attorney or the person bringing the action is an original source of the information.
(b) For purposes of this section:
"Original source" means an individual who has direct and independent knowledge of the information on which the allegations are based and has voluntarily provided the information to the county before filing an action under this part that is based on the information, and whose information provided the basis or catalyst for the investigation, hearing, audit, or report that led to the public disclosure.
§46-I Fees and costs of litigation. A county shall not be liable for expenses or fees, including attorney fees, that a person incurs in bringing an action under this part and shall not elect to pay those expenses or fees."
SECTION 2. The provisions of this Act are not exclusive and are in addition to any other applicable law or remedy. This Act shall be liberally construed and applied to promote the public interest.
SECTION 3. In codifying the new sections added by section 1 of this Act, the revisor of statutes shall substitute appropriate section numbers for the letters used in designating the new sections in this Act.
SECTION 4. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.