Georgia has three excellent jurisdictions for filing False Claims Act cases.
We here at Bracker & Marcus LLC like Georgia a lot. Sweet tea, college football (Go Dawgs!), peaches, mild winters, fried chicken. It’s little wonder that we decided to make Atlanta our home.
But Georgia is more than just the home of great whistleblower lawyers and good food: we also have three fantastic United States Attorneys’ Offices, in the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Georgia. We know all three extremely well; our firm has twenty-nine open False Claims Act cases across the state. Since 2015, it has settled more than a dozen other qui tam cases.
One thing you may notice as you check out the maps below is that they don’t exactly conform to their names. For example, Athens (in northeast Georgia) and Valdosta (on the Georgia-Florida border) are both in the Middle District. This is because until 1926, there were only two districts, and so the newly-formed Middle District took pieces from the other two.
Northern District of Georgia
Atlanta is the ninth-largest metro area in the nation and is home to over six million people. Therefore, the Northern District of Georgia houses the largest U.S. Attorney’s Office in the state and handles the most qui tam cases by far.
Located in downtown Atlanta, about 20 minutes from the busiest airport in the world, the Northern District investigates a high volume of local cases (such as this $16 million settlement with an Atlanta-based hospital chain) and has the infrastructure to handle massive, national cases as well. They led the charge against pharmaceutical company Avenir, resulting in more than $108 million in criminal and civil penalties.
In the fiscal year 2019, the office was credited with over $169 million collected in civil and criminal actions.
Come file in the Northern District, catch a Braves/Falcons/Hawks game, grab a Varsity hot dog and a Coke, and enjoy one of the fastest-growing cities on Earth.
Middle District of Georgia
As we move south toward Macon and Columbus, we find a smaller, quieter office, but one that packs a lot of punch. Prior to joining our firm, attorney Nathan Peak worked with the office to achieve a $35 million settlement in 2015. The Middle District (working hand-in-hand with the Northern District) also was home to one of the largest qui tam cases in history, a $513 million settlement of civil and criminal charges by Tenet Healthcare.
Refusing to let these eight and nine-figure settlements go to its head, the Middle District works just as hard on smaller cases. For example, our six-figure settlement with a single Athens pharmacy.
Due to the more rural geography of this jurisdiction, cases are more likely to be localized and are primarily related to healthcare (which is true generally under the False Claims Act, but particularly in smaller venues). However, Fort Benning and Warner-Robins Air Force Base also make it a candidate for defense contractor cases.
Don’t miss the Allman Brothers Band Museum in Macon before you leave town.
Southern District of Georgia
We end our tour of Georgia in Savannah, where yours truly clerked with the federal court to start my legal career back in 2007. Unlike the other two districts, the Southern District generates a high percentage of its own False Claims Act cases through its investigators rather than relying on whistleblowers.
For example, in September of 2019, it announced its participation in Operation Double Helix (genetic testing fraud) and Operation Brace Yourself (durable medical equipment fraud). This resulted in 19 indictments alleging more than $400 million in Medicare fraud.
Still, the district is very friendly to qui tam filers, as we learned when it intervened and settled this matter against a defense contractor.
Like the Middle District, the Southern District is largely made up of rural areas, but its ports (Savannah and Brunswick) make it an interesting option for customs fraud cases as well. And it is certainly one of the better jurisdictions in America to file and stay a while after the relator’s interview, whether it is to golf in Augusta or enjoy the Hostess City of the South in Savannah.
Twin State False Claims Acts
The state of Georgia is also home to two of its own state false claims acts. The first is the Georgia False Medicaid Claims Act, which mirrors the federal False Claims Act but is limited to Medicaid fraud. This has led to one of the most skilled and experienced state Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU) in the nation.
Any case involving Georgia Medicaid funds will involve the state MFCU team, regardless of which district you may file in.
The state also has a one-of-a-kind Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act (TPA), which is one of the broadest in the country in terms of scope, including any state, city, or local funds. This in turn includes “any Georgia county, municipal corporation, consolidated government, authority, board of education or other local public board, body, or commission, town, school district, board of cooperative educational services, local public benefit corporation, hospital authority, taxing authority, or other political subdivision of the state or of such local government, including the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.”
Thus, even a hint of government money puts the TPA into play.
However, before you can even file a TPA claim (including a retaliation claim), you have to have the permission of the state attorney general. Also, unlike Medicaid fraud claims, which can be filed in federal court due to federal funding to the Medicaid program, these claims are generally filed in state court.
Bless Your Heart
We hope you enjoyed this little tour of our home states. Each has its strengths, but we would not hesitate to file in any of the three districts here. If you think you might have a False Claims Act case with ties to the state of Georgia, contact us for a free evaluation!