In a first-of-its kind ruling that some lawyers say could gut most qui tam litigation, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declared the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act unconstitutional in cases where the government does not intervene.

In Joyce Riley v. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, et al., the 5th Circuit on Nov. 15 ruled that a qui tam action brought by an uninjured private party without government intervention violates the Take Care clause and the separation of powers doctrine of the Constitution.