American Journal of Law & Medicine

General Release Signed by Qui Tam Relator Does Not Bar Later Suits by Other Relators Alleging the Same Fraud - United States Ex Rel. May V. Purdue Pharma L.P

The Fourth Circuit recently held that a general release signed by an individual bars False Claims Act (2) (FCA) suits by that individual, but does not bar later actions brought by other qui tam relators alleging the same fraudulent acts. (3)

In general, any individual who knowingly submits false claims to the government is liable under the FCA. (4) The statute also allows for private whistleblowers, known as relators, to file qui tam actions on behalf of the government and allows relators to recover a share of any eventual damages. (5) Qui tam relators may be barred from receiving their share, however, if another action regarding the same fraud has already been filed--the "first to file bar" (6)--or if the action is based on information already publically disclosed--the "public disclosure bar." (7)

In 2005, Mark Radcliffe, a former Purdue district sales manager, filed a qui tam suit against Purdue claiming that the company falsely marketed the cost per dose of the popular pain medication OxyContin. (8) Prior to filing this suit, however, Mark Radcliffe had been laid off by Purdue and had signed a general release of all claims in exchange for a more generous Perdue severance package. (9) The District Court for the Western District of Virginia originally dismissed this action for failing to satisfy the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure's heightened pleading requirements in cases alleging fraud. (10) The Fourth Circuit affirmed this dismissal with prejudice on alternate grounds, holding that the release was enforceable and any right to file a qui tam action had been waived in the release. …

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