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RPWB is a 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Law Firm

CHARLESTON, S.C. – U.S. News & World Report has named Richardson, Patrick, Westbrook & Brickman as a 2020 Best Law Firm for the firm’s work in personal injury, mass torts and class actions, product liability, medical malpractice, securities litigation, healthcare law and railroad law.

U.S. News’ announcement came on the heels of the 2020 Best Lawyers in America list, in which 16 RPWB attorneys were recognized for work in their respective practice and geographic areas. This included a Personal Injury Lawyer of the Year designation for Dave Butler, an asbestos lawyer who works across the country helping people with mesothelioma lawsuits from his office in Aiken, South Carolina.

RPWB was the top-listed plaintiff law firm in South Carolina for work on product liability cases, class action lawsuits and mass torts. In 2019, the firm had the most lawyers on the list in the entire country for mass torts and class actions.

RPWB was founded in 2002, when four of the six shareholders of the very successful law firm Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole formed a new firm to focus on complex litigation throughout the United States.

RPWB attorneys regularly hold leadership positions on class actions and other mass torts across the nation. In 2019, RPWB lawyers were named to the leadership of national lawsuits, including the 3M Combat Arms Earplug MDL and the Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Product Liability MDL.

The firm remains deeply rooted in work to help mesothelioma victims. Terry Richardson, a founding member of RPWB, was one of the first attorneys in the nation to win a mesothelioma lawsuit against asbestos manufacturers. Since then, RPWB has successfully represented mesothelioma victims throughout the United States. Several attorneys at the firm played pivotal roles in the fight against tobacco companies in the 1990s that led to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. RPWB is currently helping six Canadian provinces in their fight to recoup money spent on treating smoking-related illnesses.

In addition to national litigation, RPWB also works on individual lawsuits in a variety of practice areas, including: wrongful death, catastrophic personal injury, truck accidents, railroad accidents, construction defects, medical malpractice, mesothelioma and other occupational lung disease, whistleblower & qui tam, nursing home abuse, pharmaceutical drugs and medical device cases.

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    The Role of the Whistleblower: A look at qui tam litigation

    By Chuck Dukes

    Qui tam litigation allows private citizens, like you, to join in the battle against government fraud. Every year, many of our public institutions—from the military to Medicare—are plagued by fraud. Astonishingly, it’s estimated that nearly 10% of all federal spending, or $350–$400B per year, is lost due to fraud.

    And by and large, qui tam litigation has proven to be the most effective weapon there is to fight against government fraud. DOJ statistics show that from 1986–2017, more than 70% of the federal government’s total recovery for fraud has come through qui tam litigation, which led to over $40 billion being restored to the federal treasury.

    QUI TAM LITIGATION UNDER THE FALSE CLAIMS ACT

    Practically speaking, qui tam litigation is the procedure through which a private individual, commonly known as a “whistleblower,” files a lawsuit on behalf of the government to recover public funds. If the lawsuit is successful, the whistleblower is entitled to a share of the recovery.

    Modern qui tam practice began in 1863 when Congress enacted the False Claims Act (“FCA”) in response to rampant fraud being committed against the government during the Civil War.  The FCA prohibits anyone from knowingly committing fraud against the United States through the submission of false or fraudulent claims. Importantly, the FCA also includes qui tam provisions that allow private citizens to file suit on behalf of the United States to recover public funds. These whistleblowers, or “relators” as they are referred to under the statute, are individuals who have witnessed or have personal knowledge of fraud being committed against the government.

    COMMON TYPES OF GOVERNMENT FRAUD

    Today, most qui tam cases are filed against healthcare providers, financial institutions, or defense contractors for submitting false or fraudulent claims to the government for reimbursement. Qui tam cases involving healthcare fraud are the most common, and usually provide a majority of the government’s annual recovery under the FCA. These cases restore billions of dollars to our Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE programs every year, and save those programs billions more by deterring others from committing similar frauds.

    Fraudulent billing schemes are most prevalent in the medical industry and typically involve doctors, hospitals, or laboratories that (1) bill for medical services that were never performed, (2) bill for services that were not medically necessary, or (3) upcode for medical services or equipment. These schemes are typically uncovered by doctors, nurses, accountants, administrators, or billing specialists who have first-hand knowledge of the fraud and may have been reprimanded, or even fired, for trying to expose it.

    Lately, a surge of qui tam cases have also been filed for violations of the Stark Act and/or Anti-Kickback Statute, laws that generally prohibit doctors from receiving kickbacks for referring Medicare or Medicaid patients to other healthcare providers. These cases are typically filed by physicians who have rejected similar financial arrangements, nurses who become aware of the referral scheme, or by healthcare administrators with access to physician compensation matters who, during the course of their work, discover an illegal arrangement.

    HOW WHISTLEBLOWERS ARE COMPENSATED

    More often than not, qui tam cases involve hundreds or even thousands of false claims, so awards can be substantial. Defendants who are found liable for violations of the FCA face treble damages; civil penalties ranging from $10,957 to $21,916 per false claim; the government’s litigation costs; and the whistleblower’s expenses, attorneys’ fees, and costs.  

    For their efforts in exposing government fraud, whistleblowers are entitled to 10–30% of the government’s total recovery in the case. If the government has intervened, the whistleblower’s share is 15–25% of the total recovery. If the government has not intervened, that share can climb to 25–30%. In 2017, the average share was over a million dollars, with more than $390 million being awarded to whistleblowers collectively. Since 1986, whistleblowers have been awarded over $6 billion for their help in rooting out government fraud.

    But invariably qui tam cases involve complex issues, are fiercely contested by deep-pocketed defendants, and require extensive discovery and costly expert testimony to prove. So if you have witnessed government fraud at work and are considering a qui tam case, be sure to contact a law firm like RPWB that has the knowledge, experience, and financial resources that qui tam litigation demands.

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