The Florida False Claims Act

You are, no doubt, at least somewhat familiar with the federal False Claims Act, which encourages reporting of fraudulent claims brought to taxpayer-funded programs. Interestingly, this federal law has its roots in the Civil War after defense contractors defrauded the federal government. However, Florida’s version of the False Claims Act is relatively new, having been implemented in 1994. This blog will cover some key points of the state law and point out ways it differs from the federal law. 

Innocent Mistake Provision

For the most part, Florida’s law mirrors the federal law. It prohibits companies and people who do business with the state from “present[ing] or caus[ing] to present a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval.” Essentially, the state of Florida wants to make sure it is using public money for necessary services and products. It also prohibits individuals and businesses from concealing an obligation to pay money or give property to the state. 

What the state law has that is not contained in the federal law, though, is an affirmative defense available to defendants referred to as the “innocent mistake” defense. Under this defense, those alleged to have violated the False Claims Act may attempt to prove that they “unknowingly” made a mistake by committing a False Claims Act violation. The defense must show that it did not operate under “deliberate ignorance” when committing the alleged act.

Penalties

The Florida False Claims Act provides for trebled damages to the government. This means that those who are convicted of violating the False Claims Act must pay three times the amount that was defrauded. Additionally, the state can assess penalties of up to $11,000 per violation (with a minimum of $5,000). The state law allows for penalties to be doubled instead of trebled; it takes an effective white-collar attorney to get the state to agree to this. 

Fraudulent Corporate Tax Returns 

Along with several other states, Florida is unique in that whistleblowers may allege False Claims Act violations based on fraudulent tax returns. This is not the case with the federal act and most other states’ versions. 

Conclusion

The False Claims Act is meant to be an important tool to help prevent government waste. However, due to the ability of private persons to blow the whistle on alleged violations (called qui tam claims) and the availability of monetary rewards for whistleblowers, frivolous lawsuits are not uncommon. Regardless of the circumstances that led to your having False Claims Act allegations levied against you, Sutton Law Group is well-equipped to help you mount a premium defense. To discuss your options with an effective white-collar defense firm, get in touch with our firm today by calling (305) 667-4481.

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Sutton Law Group

Sutton Law Group is a full-service, multidisciplinary law office serving clients in and around Miami, Florida. Established in 1985, we are trusted legal advisors and advocates in complex and even life-changing legal actions.

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