The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in its ruling in Cochise Consultancy Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Hunt, created a 3-way circuit split regarding the determination of the applicable statute of limitations period in a False Claims Act (FCA) case. On March 19, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument on the matter, hopefully ending the division among the circuit courts of appeal.
Pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3731(b)(1)-(2), two potential statutes of limitations apply to FCA cases. A qui tam plaintiff can bring an FCA case on behalf of the Government either (1) six years after the date of the alleged FCA violation or (2) three years after the date when the responsible Government official learned or should have known of the relevant facts supporting the claim, but not more than ten years after the alleged FCA violation.
The Fourth, Fifth, and Tenth Circuit Courts have held that a whistleblower plaintiff can only use the three-year, knowledge-based statute of limitations if the Government intervenes in the FCA case, reasoning that Congress intended this limitations period to apply only to the Government because the statute’s language specifically identified the knowledge of a responsible Government official as determinative of when the statute runs. Continue Reading