One of the important questions to be answered in litigating False Claims Act cases is how much should the offending entity know about the false billing in order to trigger liability under federal law. Under 31 U.S.C. §3729(b), “knowing” is defined in three instances. This post will highlight these definitions.
Actual knowledge – Section 3729(b)(1) is very straightforward. If someone has actual knowledge that a false or fraudulent claim has been submitted, that knowledge can create liability for the offending entity. In these instances, a signature from the person sending the fraudulent information is sufficient.
Deliberate ignorance – Under Section 3729(b)(2), a supervisor or person in a leadership role who exhibits deliberate ignorance towards false billings could also subject the entity to liability. Think in terms of a physician who “simply doesn’t want to know” if billing practices in his or her office may generate liability as a means of protecting themselves.
Reckless disregard – Section 3729(b)(3) essentially says that one who acts in reckless disregard to the truth or falsity of the information submitted could also result in liability. An example of this may be the failure to stay abreast of new, required billing protocols.
These definitions are important considering that the statute does not require the proof of “specific intent” in order to advance a False Claims Act case. Nevertheless, the different degrees of “knowing” could create delicate legal questions that may have more than one answer. Because of this, those who have questions about what must be proven, and what type of knowledge is necessary are encouraged to contact an experienced attorney.