Florida Federal Judge Grants Government's Request to Refile $320 Million FCA Suit

Thursday, October 27, 2016
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On October 21, 2016, a Florida federal judge clarified that the dismissal of a whistleblower’s $320 million False Claims Act (FCA) (or qui tam) suit against a hospice care provider does not affect the government’s ability to file its own lawsuit.  The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr., had dismissed whistle blower Nancy Chase’s lawsuit against LifePath Hospice Inc. and Good Shepherd Hospice, Inc., with prejudice on September 22, 2016, calling it “clearly frivolous.” He also found that Chase did not sufficiently plead fraud in her suit. Click here to read Judge Moody's original decision.

Both the U.S. and Florida previously declined to intervene after the whistle blower had filed her suit.  But now the federal government has asked Judge Moody to clarify that the dismissal of the whistle blower's suit was without prejudice to the U.S. being able to file its own suit in the future.  The state is usually a party to such law suits when state Medicaid funds, as well as federal funds, are involved.


Judge Granted the Government's Request.

Judge Moody granted the government's request in a short order issued on October 21, 2016. Click here to read the order on motion for clarification. In circumstances such as this, the government had argued, and Judge Moody agreed, dismissal without prejudice against the government is appropriate. Nancy Chase’s case remained closed and permanently dismissed.

“That dismissal should not serve as precluding the United States from, at some point in the future, pursuing a claim against defendants for violations of the False Claims Act,” Judge Moody said in his decision. “This is because the dismissal against Chase was based on her failure to plead her claim with particularity and because the United States took no part in drafting the complaint.”


Chase's Sealed Complaint.

Nancy Chase, a social worker who was employed at LifePath from 1992 through December 2012, filed her whistle blower's complaint under seal in 2010, as is required by law. She accused the hospice groups of conspiring with several doctors and assisted living facilities, in exchange for kickbacks. The alleged scheme involved certifying that patients had terminal conditions so they would qualify for hospice care; to bill health care programs for more expensive treatments than were actually necessary; and to establish a way to ensure patients could be recertified.

One of the complaints that were filed alleged that more than $4.5 billion in false claims were involved, but that number dropped to $20 million annually (estimated over a 16-year period), totaling $320 million in a subsequent version of the complaint.

Judge Moody found that Chase had fallen “well short” of meeting pleading requirements regarding the alleged FCA violations. To read more on Nancy Chase's suit, click here.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs on an alleged FCA Suit.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam, Whistle blower Cases and False Claims Act Violations.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistle blower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistle blower cases, as well.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:

Kennedy, John. "US Given Chance to Refile $320M FCA Suit." Law360. (October 21, 2016). Web.

Deeson, Mike. "Chapters Hospice denies state investigation." WTSP News. (August 24, 2016). Web.


About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.


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10/27/2016

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