Hawaii False Claims Act
Whistleblowers with knowledge of fraud on Hawaii funds may bring suit on the state’s behalf and share in the recovery, under the Hawaii State False Claims Act which was first enacted in 2000. Under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 661-21 of the Act, an individual may face civil liability for knowingly presenting or causing to be presented a false or fraudulent claim, conspiring to do so, or engaging in other fraudulent activity specified by law.
The Hawaii False Claims Act is modeled on the federal False Claims Act, and cases brought under one statute are often brought in conjunction with claims under the other. Violation of the Hawaii False Claims Act exposes an individual for civil penalties up to three times the total damages to the state. Further, the Act imposes civil penalties ranging between $5,000 – $10,000 for each individual false claim in violation of the Act.
A private individual with direct knowledge of a Hawaii State False Claims Act violation is authorized to file a suit under the Act’s qui tam provisions. The qui tam relator, often referred to as a “whistleblower,” may proceed with the action regardless of whether the government chooses to intervene.
Whistleblowers involved in successful judgments or settlements may receive up to 25 percent of the civil penalties recovered by the state government. If the state government has chosen not to intervene, the whistleblower may receive up to 30 percent of the available recovery.
Persons with information about fraud on the state of Hawaii are urged to preserve their rights by consulting an attorney and filing a case as soon as possible. A disclosure to the Hawaii state government pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. § 661-28 may preserve a person’s rights as an original source of the information about fraud.
As of July 2013, the text of the state FCA statute below is believed to be a complete, current version of the statute currently in force. Nonetheless, attorneys and qui tam relators should rely on the most up to date version of the state’s laws.
Hawaii State False Claims Act
Haw. Rev. Stat. § 661-21 et seq.
§661-21 Actions for false claims to the State; qui tam actions.
(a) Notwithstanding section 661-7 to the contrary, any person who:
(1) Knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, to an officer or employee of the State a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval;
(2) Knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement to get a false or fraudulent claim paid or approved by the State;
(3) Conspires to defraud the State by getting a false or fraudulent claim allowed or paid;
(4) Has possession, custody, or control of property or money used, or to be used, by the State and, intending to defraud the State or wilfully to conceal the property, delivers, or causes to be delivered, less property than the amount for which the person receives a certificate or receipt;
(5) Is authorized to make or deliver a document certifying receipt of property used, or to be used by the State and, intending to defraud the State, makes or delivers the receipt without completely knowing that the information on the receipt is true;
(6) Knowingly buys, or receives as a pledge of an obligation or debt, public property from any officer or employee of the State who may not lawfully sell or pledge the property;
(7) Knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement to conceal, avoid, or decrease an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the State; or
(8) Is a beneficiary of an inadvertent submission of a false claim to the State, who subsequently discovers the falsity of the claim, and fails to disclose the false claim to the State within a reasonable time after discovery of the false claim;
shall be liable to the State for a civil penalty of not less than $5,000 and not more than $10,000, plus three times the amount of damages that the State sustains due to the act of that person.
(b) If the court finds that a person who has violated subsection (a):
(1) Furnished officials of the State responsible for investigating false claims violations with all information known to the person about the violation within thirty days after the date on which the defendant first obtained the information;
(2) Fully cooperated with any state investigation of such violation; and
(3) At the time the person furnished the State with the information about the violation, no criminal prosecution, civil action, or administrative action had commenced under this title with respect to such violation, and the person did not have actual knowledge of the existence of an investigation into such violation;
the court may assess not less than two times the amount of damages that the State sustains because of the act of the person. A person violating subsection (a), shall also be liable to the State for the costs and attorneys’ fees of a civil action brought to recover the penalty or damages.
(c) Liability under this section shall be joint and several for any act committed by two or more persons.
(d) This section shall not apply to any controversy involving an amount of less than $500 in value. For purposes of this subsection, “controversy” means the aggregate of any one or more false claims submitted by the same person in violation of this part. Proof of specific intent to defraud is not required.
(e) For purposes of this section:
“Claim” includes any request or demand, whether under a contract or otherwise, for money or property that is made to a contractor, grantee, or other recipient if the State provides any portion of the money or property that is requested or demanded, or if the government will reimburse the contractor, grantee, or other recipient for any portion of the money or property that is requested or demanded.
“Knowing” and “knowingly” means that a person, with respect to information:
(1) Has actual knowledge of the information;
(2) Acts in deliberate ignorance of the truth or falsity of the information; or
(3) Acts in reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the information;
and no proof of specific intent to defraud is required.
(f) This section shall not apply to claims, records, or statements for which procedures and remedies are otherwise specifically provided for under chapter 231. [L 2000, c 126, pt of §1; am L 2001, c 55, §28(1)]
[§661-22] Civil actions for false claims. The attorney general shall investigate any violation under section 661-21. If the attorney general finds that a person has violated or is violating section 661-21, the attorney general may bring a civil action under this section. [L 2000, c 126, pt of §1]
§661-23 Evidentiary determination; burden of proof. A determination that a person has violated the provisions of this part shall be based on a preponderance of the evidence. [L 2000, c 126, pt of §1; am L 2001, c 55, §28(2)]
§661-24 Statute of limitations. An action for false claims to the State pursuant to this part shall be brought within six years after the false claim is discovered or by exercise of reasonable diligence should have been discovered and, in any event, no more than ten years after the date on which the violation of section 661-21 is committed. [L 2000, c 126, pt of §1; am L 2001, c 55, §28(3)]
§661-25 Action by private persons. (a) A person may bring a civil action for a violation of section 661-21 for the person and for the State. The action shall be brought in the name of the State. The action may be dismissed only with the written consent of the court, taking into account the best interests of the parties involved and the public purposes behind this part.
(b) A copy of the complaint and written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information the person possesses shall be served on the State in accordance with the Hawaii rules of civil procedure. The complaint shall be filed in camera, shall remain under seal for at least sixty days, and shall not be served on the defendant until the court so orders. The State may elect to intervene and proceed with the action within sixty days after it receives both the complaint and the material evidence and information.
(c) The State may, for good cause shown, move the court for extensions of the time during which the complaint remains under seal under subsection (b). Any such motions may be supported by affidavits or other submissions in camera. The defendant shall not be required to respond to any complaint filed under this section until twenty days after the complaint is unsealed and served upon the defendant in accordance with the Hawaii rules of civil procedure.
(d) Before the expiration of the sixty-day period or any extension obtained, the State shall:
(1) Proceed with the action, in which case the action shall be conducted by the State and the seal shall be lifted; or
(2) Notify the court that it declines to take over the action, in which case the person bringing the action shall have the right to conduct the action and the seal shall be lifted.
(e) When a person brings an action under this section, no person other than the State may intervene or bring a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action. [L 2000, c 126, pt of §1; am L 2001, c 55, §28(4)]
[§661-26] Rights of parties to qui tam actions. (a) If the State proceeds with an action under section 661-25, the State shall have the primary responsibility for prosecuting the action and shall not be bound by an act of the person bringing the action. The person shall have the right to continue as a party to the action, subject to the following limitations:
(1) The State may dismiss the action notwithstanding the objections of the person initiating the action if the court determines, after a hearing on the motion, that dismissal should be allowed;
(2) The State may settle the action with the defendant notwithstanding the objections of the person initiating the action if the court determines, after a hearing, that the proposed settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable. Upon a showing of good cause, the hearing may be held in camera;
(3) The court, upon a showing by the State that unrestricted participation during the course of the litigation by the person initiating the action would interfere with or unduly delay the State’s prosecution of the case, or would be repetitious, irrelevant, or for purposes of harassment, may, in its discretion impose limitations on the person’s participation by:
(A) Limiting the number of witnesses the person may call;
(B) Limiting the length of the testimony of the witnesses;
(C) Limiting the person’s cross-examination of witnesses; or
(D) Otherwise limiting the participation by the person in the litigation.
(b) The defendant, by motion upon the court, may show that unrestricted participation during the course of the litigation by the person initiating the action would be for purposes of harassment or would cause the defendant undue burden or unnecessary expense. At the court’s discretion, the court may limit the participation by the person in the litigation.
(c) If the State elects not to proceed with the action, the person who initiated that action shall have the right to conduct the action. If the State so requests, it shall be served with copies of all pleadings filed in the action and shall be supplied with copies of all deposition transcripts at the State’s expense. When a person proceeds with the action, the court without limiting the status and rights of the person initiating the action, may nevertheless permit the State to intervene at a later date upon showing of good cause.
(d) Whether or not the State proceeds with the action, upon motion and a showing by the State that certain actions of discovery by the person initiating the action would interfere with the State’s investigation or prosecution of a criminal or civil matter arising out of the same facts, the court may stay the discovery for a period of not more than sixty days. The court may extend the sixty-day period upon a motion and showing by the State that the State has pursued the investigation or prosecution of the criminal or civil matter with reasonable diligence and the proposed discovery would interfere with the ongoing investigation or prosecution of the criminal or civil matter.
(e) Notwithstanding section 661-25, the State may elect to pursue its claim through any alternate remedy available to the State, including any administrative proceedings to determine civil monetary penalties. If any alternate remedy is pursued in another proceeding, the person initiating the action shall have the same rights in the proceedings as the person would have had if the action had continued under this section. Any finding of fact or conclusion of law made in the other proceeding that becomes final shall be conclusive on all parties to an action under this section.
(f) Whether or not the State elects to proceed with the action, the parties to the action shall receive court approval of any settlements reached. [L 2000, c 126, pt of §1]
[§661-27] Awards to qui tam plaintiffs. (a) If the State proceeds with an action brought by a person under section 661-25, the person shall receive at least fifteen per cent but not more than twenty-five per cent of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim, depending upon the extent to which the person substantially contributed to the prosecution of the action. Where the action is one that the court finds to be based primarily on disclosures of specific information, other than information provided by the person bringing the action, relating to allegations or transactions in a criminal, civil, or administrative hearing, in a legislative or administrative report, hearing, audit, or investigation, or from the news media, the court may award sums as it considers appropriate, but in no case more than ten per cent of the proceeds, taking into account the significance of the information and the role of the person bringing the action in advancing the case to litigation. Any payment to a person under this subsection shall be made from the proceeds. [The] person shall also receive an amount for reasonable expenses that the court finds to have been necessarily incurred, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. All expenses, fees, and costs shall be awarded against the defendant.
(b) If the State does not proceed with an action under this section, the person bringing the action or settling the claim shall receive an amount that the court decides is reasonable for collecting the civil penalty and damages. The amount shall be not less than twenty-five per cent and not more than thirty per cent of the proceeds of the action or settlement and shall be paid out of the proceeds. The person shall also receive an amount for reasonable expenses that the court finds to have been necessarily incurred, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. All expenses, fees, and costs shall be awarded against the defendant.
(c) Whether or not the State proceeds with the action, if the court finds that the action was brought by a person who planned and initiated the violation of section 661-21 upon which the action was brought, then the court may, to the extent the court considers appropriate, reduce the share of the proceeds of the action that the person would otherwise receive under subsection (a), taking into account the role of that person in advancing the case to litigation and any relevant circumstances pertaining to the violation. If the person bringing the action is convicted of criminal conduct arising from the person’s role in the violation of section 661-21, that person shall be dismissed from the civil action and shall not receive any share of the proceeds of the action. The dismissal shall not prejudice the right of the State to continue the action.
(d) If the State does not proceed with the action and the person bringing the action conducts the action, the court may award to the defendant its reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses if the defendant prevails in the action and the court finds that the claim of the person bringing the action was frivolous, vexatious, or brought primarily for purposes of harassment.
(e) In no event may a person bring an action under section 661-25:
(1) Against a member of the state senate or state house of representatives, a member of the judiciary, or an elected official in the executive branch of the State, if the action is based on evidence or information known to the State. For purposes of this section, evidence or information known only to the person or persons against whom an action is brought shall not be considered to be known to the State;
(2) When the person is a present or former employee of the State and the action is based upon information discovered by the employee during the course of the employee’s employment, unless the employee first, in good faith, exhausted any existing internal procedures for reporting and seeking recovery of the falsely claimed sums through official channels and the State failed to act on the information provided within a reasonable period of time; or
(3) That is based upon allegations or transactions that are the subject of a civil or criminal investigation by the State, civil suit, or an administrative civil money penalty proceeding in which the State is already a party. [L 2000, c 126, pt of §1]
[§661-28] Jurisdiction. No court shall have jurisdiction over an action under this part based upon the public disclosure of allegations or transactions in a criminal, civil, or administrative hearing, in a legislative or administrative report, hearing, audit, or investigation, or from the news media, unless the action is brought by the attorney general or the person bringing the action is an original source of the information. For purposes of this section:
“Original source” means an individual who has direct and independent knowledge of the information on which the allegations are based and has voluntarily provided the information to the State before filing an action under this part that is based on the information, and whose information provided the basis or catalyst for the investigation, hearing, audit, or report that led to the public disclosure. [L 2000, c 126, pt of §1]
[§661-29] Fees and costs of litigation. The State shall not be liable for expenses or fees, including attorney fees, that a person incurs in bringing an action under this part and shall not elect to pay those expenses or fees. [L 2000, c 126, pt of §1]