Florida Federal Judge Triples Award to $347 Million in Rare Whistleblower Case

Friday, March 24, 2017
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law


On March 1, 2017, a Florida federal judge tripled a $115 million damages award for the government to $347 million after a jury found that the operators of 53 nursing facilities submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid. U.S. District Judge, Steven D. Merryday, upheld the jury’s $115 award affirming that the operators of the 53 nursing facilities had violated the False Claims Act (FCA).  The case is U.S. ex rel. Ruckh v. CMC II LLC et al., case number 8:11-cv-01303, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

The whistleblower in the case, Angela Ruckh, a former nurse at two of the facilities, brought the allegations against four defendants that they had submitted false claims and fraudulent records to the government. The four defendants in the case are CMC II LLC, Salus Rehabilitation LLC, 207 Marshall Drive Operations LLC and 803 Oak Street Operations LLC.


Details of the Case.

On February 15, 2017, the jury found that the four defendants had falsely increased the amount of resources needed for their patients needed, in order to get more money from Medicare and Medicaid.  In the jury’s verdict, the four defendants were ordered to pay $115 million in damages for violating the FCA. Click here to read the jury’s verdict in full.


Treble Damages for FCA.


This rare FCA case that both went to trial and received a jury verdict, called for treble damages. The four defendants received penalties proportionate to the jury’s allocated findings. Sea Crest Health Care Management, L.L.C. and CMC II, LLC were ordered to pay $291,160,608 to the U.S. government and $39,897,291 to the Florida government. Salus Rehabilitation LLC was required to pay $484,000 to the U.S. government. 207 Marshall Drive Operations L.L.C. incurred $6,266,424 of damages owed to the federal government and 803 Oak Street Operations, LLC was penalized $10,055,961 to be paid back to the U.S. government. Click here to read the order from this case in full.

To learn more about FCA violations and cases of fraud involving a relator or whistleblower, click here to read one of our prior blogs.


Nurses and Other Employees Are Often Whistle Blowers in These Big Cases.


It is often a nurse or other health professional employed by the facility that is the whistle blower in such cases.  They are in a position to know whether or not services are being provided and whether or not they are medically necessary.  They are often in a position to see if false bills are being submitted for the patients.

In a case such as this one, where the U.S. did not intervene to take the case forward and the whistleblower and her attorneys did, she can receive an award of up to thirty percent (30%) of the recovery or $104,100,000.


Contact an Experienced Health Law Attorney to Assist in Whistleblower/Qui Tam Cases.


If you have knowledge of false claims being filed against Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE/CHAMPUS or any other type of government program, please contact us, and we will be happy to assist you. Our law firm represents health professionals and health care organizations almost exclusively. Yet, we have been involved in a number of whistleblower/qui tam cases, in which we represent the person who files the claim.

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


Sources:

Smith, Mara. “Florida Judge Trebles Award to $347 Million in Whistleblower Case.” AHCA. (March 1, 2017). Web.

Bolado, Carolina. “Judge Triples Nursing Home Cos.’ Fraud Penalty To $347M.” Law360. (March 6, 2017). 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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3/24/2017

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