The Government’s Duty to Preserve Evidence in a Non-Intervened “Qui Tam” Case

Stephen_Wood_03032014Featured Expert Contributor, False Claims Act

Stephen A. Wood, Chuhak & Tecson, P.C.

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Every civil litigator and trial lawyer knows (or should know) that a party to litigation has a duty to preserve evidence and documents for use in discovery and trial.  The rule applies to all litigants, whether public or private entities or persons.  It may even be applied to non-parties in certain circumstances, although typically non-parties face more limited obligations.

The False Claims Act qui tam provisions present a unique set of challenges bearing on the government’s duty to preserve.  Qui tam complaints are filed under seal to facilitate the government’s investigation after which it may elect to take the case over.  When it declines to intervene in the qui tam case, the government typically considers itself to be a non-party, eschewing any duty to preserve evidence.  Yet, for many reasons, the government should be treated as a party for purposes of the duty to preserve evidence in those cases in which it has declined to intervene.  And in the face of a breach of that duty, both the government and the qui tam relator should face the prospect of sanctions as the circumstances warrant. Continue reading “The Government’s Duty to Preserve Evidence in a Non-Intervened “Qui Tam” Case”