Qui tam actions allow a citizen to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the government. Typically, it involves fraud.
Because one person is acting for another, it can get confusing exactly who plays what role in the legal action. According to Cornell Law School, a qui tam action has three parties.
The first party is the person bringing the lawsuit. This person is known as the relator. The relator files a lawsuit for the government. Typically, whoever files a lawsuit is the plaintiff, but that is not the case in a qui tam action. This specific situation labels the person filing as the relator. Leep in mind that qui tam is a specific situation where the relator is helping to protect the government or standing in as an actor on behalf of the government. This point will help keep the roles straight in the lawsuit.
Party two would then be the government. The government is the plaintiff in this type of lawsuit. The plaintiff will receive the benefits of the action. However, it is important to note that the relator will also receive some benefits because if the plaintiff wins, the relator gets part of the award.
The third party is the defendant. It is the person or entity against which the relator files the lawsuit. The defendant is who allegedly did something to defraud the government. If the plaintiff wins the case, the defendant must pay damages, which the government and the relator share.
Understanding the different parties in a lawsuit, especially a qui tam action, is essential. Confusion could lead to issues in the future that might have an impact on the case when each party is unsure of their roles.