9th Circuit Says Former Federal Nurse Can Proceed With Medical Malpractice Suit Against VA Hospital

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On September 29, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a former federal employee can sue the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The suit alleges medical negligence that occurred during psychiatric treatment for a non-workplace-related injury.

As a result, the three-judge panel of the appeals court said that U.S. Navy veteran and VA nurse S.H.s’ lawsuit against a Seattle VA hospital can proceed. (Please note: we are not providing the nurse’s name out of respect for her privacy.)

In 2019, the district court dismissed S.H.’s federal tort lawsuit because the alleged malpractice occurred when doctors were treating an injury she said she sustained at her workplace. The district court reasoned that all existing or exacerbated injuries stemming from a federal workplace injury must be dealt with through the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), even malpractice claims.

Click here to view the district court’s order for the motion to dismiss in full.


Background Details.

The plaintiff in the suit is a veteran of the U.S. Navy who suffered a mental breakdown at work in October 2011. She sought follow-up psychiatric care at a VA hospital, where she allegedly received negligent treatment. At the time the treatment was sought, she was an employee of the federal government. She claimed years of workplace bullying and harassment by her supervisor caused her mental breakdown. She sued in 2016.

The FTCA authorizes plaintiffs to sue the U.S. for “personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). Any individual employee of the government acting within the course and scope of her job duties is immune from liability; the United States is substituted for that person in the suit.

The Big Question: Does the FTCA Authorize Suit by a Plaintiff in This Set of Circumstances?

Two factors complicate the answer in this case. First, when the plaintiff sought treatment, she was an employee of the federal government, working as a registered nurse at the VA hospital. Second, she claimed that her mental breakdown, the event that prompted her to seek medical care, was caused by workplace bullying and harassment at the hands of her supervisor. Hence, this would qualify as a work-related injury.

These facts bring into play another federal statute: the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. FECA establishes a workers’ compensation blueprint that covers most federal employees. It is similar to state workers’ compensation laws.

When an employee sustains an injury covered by FECA, the remedy is to seek compensation under the act; they may not sue for damages under any other provision of law, including the FTCA. Therefore, had the plaintiff sued the U.S. under the FTCA to recover damages for workplace bullying and harassment, the district court would have been required to dismiss the action as barred by FECA.

In this case, however, the plaintiff is not suing for the injuries caused by workplace bullying and harassment. Instead, she is seeking to recover damages for the alleged medical malpractice by the individual doctors treating her.

Based on these facts, the appellate court reversed the district court’s judgment against the plaintiff in her Federal Tort Claims Act action. It held that the district court erred in dismissing the action on the grounds that it was barred by the FECA.

To view the ninth circuit court’s opinion in full, click here.

Consult a Health Law Attorney Who Is Familiar with Army, Navy, and Air Force Health Care Professionals and Their Problems.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented federal physicians, nurses, dentists, and other health professionals in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, active duty and retired, as well as physicians, nurses, and other health professionals working for the Veterans Administration (VA) in the U.S. and around the world. They represent physicians and other health professionals with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Public Health Service (PHS). Representation has included disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions, and appeals.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Capriel, Jonathan. “9th Circ. Revives Psychiatric Med Mal Suit Against VA Hospital.” Law360. (September 29, 2021). Web.

Pazanowski, Mary Ann. “Former Federal Nurse Gets New Shot at Injury Suit Against US.” Bloomberg Law. (September 29, 2021). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2021-10-06T16:25:21-04:00October 6th, 2021|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Humana Agrees To Pay $11.2 Million to End Nurses’ Overtime Suit

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

On September 27, 2021, Humana agreed to pay $11.2 million to end claims that the health insurance company denied a group of nurses overtime pay by misclassifying them as exempt employees. A Wisconsin federal judge approved the deal with Humana, and a group of more than 200 nurses reached, securing a $36,000 average payment for each nurse involved in the suit.

A Violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

This dispute stems from a class-action lawsuit filed in 2017 alleging that Humana misclassified its clinical nurse advisers as exempt employees and denied them overtime compensation, violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Many professionals and supervisors or managerial employees are considered to be exempt from overtime laws.

In the suit, the company faced allegations from nurses who claimed they were never paid for overtime even though they were required to work more than 40 hours per week to meet Humana’s production goals and expectations.

The Settlement.

The settlement agreement will allocate almost $3 million to cover attorney fees and costs. Additionally, the 221 nurses that are part of the settling class will get nearly $8 million based on the number of full-time weeks the nurses worked. According to the motion, the average payment per nurse for unpaid overtime and liquidated damages will be over $36,000.

The case is O’Leary v. Humana Insurance Co., et al., case number 17-cv-1774, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Click here to view the court’s brief in full.

To read about another case dealing with alleged pay discrimination in the healthcare field, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely provide legal representation to nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, dentists, dental assistants, physicians, physician assistants, mental health counselors, and other health providers. We also provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings. We provide legal representation across the U.S., not just in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Spezzemonte, Irene. “Humana To Pay $11.2M To End Nurses’ Misclassification Suit.” Law360. (September 27, 2021). Web.

Webster, Katherine. “Court OKs $11.2M Overtime Settlement Between Humana, Nurses.” Top Class Actions. (September 30, 2021). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

 

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law

 

 

 

 

 

Nurse Faces Suit for Wrongful Death of Jail Inmate Says 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Headshot of attorney George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On March 3, 2021, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part, a Utah court’s decision on a lawsuit for the death of a 21-year-old inmate, affirming that the jail’s doctor could claim qualified immunity, but not the nurse. After the inmate’s death, her estate sued for depriving her of her civil rights. The U.S. district court granted summary judgment in favor of the county. It ruled that qualified immunity applied to shield jail supervisors and staff. However, it denied qualified immunity to jail nurse Jana Clyde and to a private doctor who consulted with the prison, Dr. Kennon Tubbs.

The 10th Circuit appeal panel reversed the lower court’s decision, stating that one doctor can claim qualified immunity. It ruled that the jail’s nurse must face claims of civil rights violations, which are not subject to immunity. Court filings alleged that jail staff, including its nurse, ignored the inmate’s rapidly deteriorating health.

Failure to Secure Medical Treatment Despite Obvious Risks to the Inmate.

In 2016, Madison Jensen, the inmate, allegedly died from opiate withdrawal at the Duchesne County jail in Utah. After the 21-year old inmate was booked, she was allegedly placed in a cell with another woman and almost immediately began vomiting. Her vomiting allegedly continued for five days. The jail’s nurse failed to tell the physician’s assistant or doctor about Jensen’s condition, according to the complaint.

The jail’s video recording system captured the female inmate rolling off her bed and having a seizure. About 30 minutes later, both the nurse and doctor discovered she had died in her cell, the complaint said. The inmate’s cause of death was reported to be cardiac arrhythmia from dehydration due to opiate withdrawal.

Civil Rights Violation Claims.

After the inmate’s death, her estate sued for deprivation of her civil rights. The United States District Court for the District of Utah granted summary judgment for the county and the jail supervisors and staff, based on their qualified immunity. However, it denied qualified immunity to the jail nurse and the contracted doctor. Jensen’s estate claimed the jail nurse had shown deliberate indifference to the inmate’s serious medical needs, as she failed to secure medical treatment despite obvious signs and risks. In response, the nurse argued that she took reasonable steps to provide care and that she wasn’t aware that the inmate faced serious medical needs.

The circuit court judges held that “the unique circumstances of this case” allow the doctor to raise the defense of his qualified immunity. As for the jail nurse, the court said, “a trier of fact could conclude that she did not just misdiagnose Ms. Jensen, she ‘completely refused to fulfill her duty as gatekeeper.’ The nurse showed “near-complete indifference” toward the inmate that “grossly deviated from the standard of care for treating severe dehydration, especially when the result of a failure to treat is death” according to the court’s opinion.

“We believe that these circumstances — particularly her [the inmate’s] self-report that she had been vomiting for four days and could not keep down water — present a risk of harm that would be obvious to a reasonable person,” the court said. To read more, click here for the court’s opinion in full.

This isn’t the first case of an inmate’s family suing after Improper Care. Click here to read about a similar wrongful death suit of a Florida inmate.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Gill, Lauren. “UTAH JAIL NURSE FACES NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE CHARGE IN DEATH OF 21-YEAR-OLD WOMAN.” The Appeal. (August 1, 2019). Web.

O’Brian, Rachel. “10th Circ. Says Nurse Must Face Wrongful Death Suit.” Law360. (March 13, 2021). 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 Avene, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toff-Free: (888) 331-6620.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Former University of Florida Professor and Researcher Charged With Fraud and Hiding China Ties

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On February 3, 2021, a former University of Florida professor was indicted on allegations of fraudulently obtaining a federal grant from the U.S. by concealing his ties with the Chinese government. He is accused of fraudulently obtaining $1.75 million in federal grant money from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He was able to do this by concealing support he received from the Chinese government and a company that he founded in China to profit from that research, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The former professor is charged with six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to an agency of the United States.

A Scheme to Defraud National Institutes of Health and the University of Florida.

According to the indictment, the ex-professor obtained a $1.75 million grant from NIH to support his development work on an imaging informatics tool for muscles known as “MuscleMiner.” Additionally, he served as the principal investigator for the grant between September 2014 and July 2019. According to prosecutors, he was required to disclose any foreign research support and any financial conflicts of interest, including financial connections to foreign companies, but he failed to do so.

The indictment alleges that he concealed the information in order to keep his job at the University of Florida and continue to receive NIH grant money. Additionally, the ex-professor signed a document from UF’s College of Engineering in 2019 that said he had no affiliation with any business, business entity, or university in China. Prosecutors said that he left the United States in August of 2019 for China and has not returned.

Each wire fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for each count of making a false statement is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. You can read the complaint in this case here.

To read the press release issued by the DOJ, click here.

Research Fraud, Grant Application Fraud, and Scientific Misconduct Allegations Have Serious Consequences.

An accusation, even if later proven to be unfounded, may unfairly tarnish the personal and professional reputation of any scientific, medical, or clinical researcher. It can cause the researcher to lose grants, bonuses, and promotions; his or her employment may be terminated; and, as in this case, he or she may face criminal prosecution for fraud, theft, or other applicable crimes.

To learn more on clinical research fraud and misconduct, click here to visit our Areas of Practice Page on our website and read one of my prior blogs here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Defending Against Allegations of Clinical Research Fraud and Misconduct.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys have experience in representing researchers, investigators, academicians, and clinicians who are the subject of clinical research fraud and misconduct allegations. The Health Law Firm and its attorneys also have experience in representing students, employees, researchers, investigators, and “whistleblowers” who report such matters including those who become the victim of reprisals and retaliation by the person against whom the report is made.

Don’t wait. Obtain the advice and counsel of experienced attorneys who are familiar with such matters and can assist you before it is too late.

If you are facing allegations of research misconduct, research fraud, medical investigation misconduct, please visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call The Health Law Firm at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.

Sources:

Clough, Chris. “Former Fla. Professor Charged With Fraud, Hiding China Ties.” Law360. (February 3, 2021). Web.

Swirko, Cindy. “Former Florida professor indicted for fraudulently obtaining $1.75M federal grant.” The Gainesville Sun. (February 5, 2021). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2021-03-10T11:48:36-05:00June 8th, 2021|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Are You Applying for a Nursing or Health Professional License? Read Our Helpful Tips First!

George F. Indest III HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The process of obtaining a nursing or health professional license can be challenging and time-consuming. When seeking initial licensure or applying for a license in another state, you should be aware of delays in the application process due to the investigation of credentials and past practice, as well as the need to comply with licensing standards.

Here is a List of Examples That Would Delay Your Application:

• Disciplinary or academic actions during postgraduate training (probation, suspension, remediation)
• Action by another state’s regulatory or licensing board
• Action by a different professional licensing board
• Misdemeanor or felony convictions
• Results of the criminal background check (remember, it shows arrests, not necessarily the results of the arrests)
• Civil judgments/malpractice
• Medical, physical, mental, or chemical dependence impairment/condition within the last five years
• Adverse action against your clinical privileges by a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, or other health facility or professional organization.
• Adverse action (e.g., termination for cause) by a former employer
• Action by a specialty board
• Lack of recent active practice
• Action by DEA against your DEA registration number
• Disciplinary action (especially court-martial) by the military
• Applications that require a petition of waiver or variance for a job

Not being 100% truthful about your history and education is the number one reason for denial of an application for a license! Don’t try to hide potentially derogatory information from a state licensing board, if it is required by the question or the instructions that further elaborate on the question. It is much better to come forward with the information and be upfront.

This being said, you do not want to volunteer adverse information that a question does not ask. For example, if a question asks about felony convictions, DO NOT disclose misdemeanor convictions or traffic ticket convictions. If a question asks about convictions, DO NOT disclose arrests for which you were acquitted or were dismissed. If a question asks about medical malpractice lawsuits, DO NOT disclose civil lawsuits that were not related to malpractice.

How to Speed up the Application Process.

There are ways to ease the process of applying for a nursing license and get your application processed quicker. Before submitting your application, contact the licensing board and request a copy of its current licensing requirements and the average time it takes to process applications.

The following are tips to help ease the process of applying for medical licensure:

1. Submit follow-up documents in a timely manner online or mail them to the correct address (as required). If you cannot obtain requested follow-up documentation, provide a separate, detailed explanation (preferably in the form of an affidavit), of why you cannot do so.

2. Keep in mind that any fees you pay have to be processed by the Department vendor. This may take a few days.

3. Identify any variation of names and nicknames.

4. Once you start the process, submit the application within 30 days so that your supplemental documents, including transcripts, will have an application file in which to be filed.

5. Have the correct address on the application for training programs you have attended and the health facilities at which you have worked.

6. Send in necessary back-up documents in a timely manner.

7. Follow up with sources that are sending the Board of Nursing your documents.

8. Watch for letters or e-mail from your reviewer. This is how you will be instructed on what additional documents or information may be needed for your application to be complete.

9. If asked for follow-up information from the Board, please read the request carefully to identify exactly what is needed to make your application complete.

10. Answer questions honestly and provide an explanation where appropriate. But do not provide information that is not being requested.

Nurses and medical professionals seeking a license should expect at least a 60-day period from the time they initially submit a completed application and the actual date licensure is granted.

For more information and ways that The Health Law Firm can help in licensure matters, visit our Video Q&A section or visit our website’s Areas of Practice page.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you are applying for a nursing or health care license, have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents nurses, physicians, dentists, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Obtaining a Medical License.” American Medical Association (AMA). Web.

Florida Board of Nursing, “Licensing FAQs,” http://flboardofnursing.gov/licensure-faqs/

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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Passes Law Aimed at Healthcare Professional Background Screening

Attorney Michael L. SmithBy Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

For several years, many healthcare professionals have been required to pass a Level II background check in order to work in most Florida healthcare facilities licensed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Many healthcare professionals are also required to pass a Level II background check in order to be licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). In March 2020, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 713, which will add the offenses of battery on a vulnerable adult and battery on a patient or resident of certain healthcare facilities (primarily nursing facilities) as a disqualifying offense. The law took effect on July 1, 2020. Previously, only felony battery and battery on a minor were disqualifying offenses for purposes of the Level II background screening.

More Details on the New Legislation.

A health professional who previously passed the Level II background check may nevertheless be deemed “not eligible” for employment in a licensed health facility on the next Level II background check. This would occur if the practitioner has been found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to battery of a vulnerable adult, or battery on a patient or resident of a healthcare facility. (This is the wording of the statute, not mine.)

A practitioner who is determined to be “not eligible” on a Level II background check due to a disqualifying offense must apply for an exemption from that disqualifying offense, in order to be permitted to work. The practitioner seeking an exemption has the burden of proving that the exemption should be granted. The provider must prove this with clear and convincing evidence, a standard that is higher and stricter than that in a civil trial.

Any health professional seeking an exemption from a disqualifying offense should seek the assistance of an experienced health law attorney familiar with the application process, and the types of evidence that can prove that the health professional should be granted an exemption.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Feds Charge Three People For Multi-Million Dollar Scheme to Defraud Medicare, HIPAA Violations

Attorney George F. Indest IIIBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In October 2020, Massachusetts federal prosecutors charged three people for their alleged roles in a multi-million dollar plot to defraud Medicare. Two individuals allegedly collected patient data and sold it to the purported mastermind, who used it to submit $109 million in false claims.

The two individuals who allegedly obtained the patient information were both located in Florida, wouldn’t ya know. They were each charged with one count of receiving more than $1.6 million kickbacks in connection with a federal health care program. Prosecutors charged the third individual with criminal violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Fraudulently Collecting & Using Private Patient Information.

According to court documents, both individuals in Florida owned marketing companies that enlisted foreign call centers to contact Medicare beneficiaries. Using a prepared script, they allegedly asked the patients they called if they would be interested in receiving durable medical equipment (DME) such as knee braces or compression sleeves “at little to no cost.”

The call centers would then collect information, including the patient’s name, address, insurance number, Medicare number, and doctor’s name and address, prosecutors said. The information was then sold to the third individual, who filed fraudulent Medicare claims for DME that were never prescribed and not medically necessary.

According to court records, the alleged co-conspirators used the same patients’ information repeatedly through a different shell company each time. More than 1,000 of the claims were made under the names of deceased beneficiaries. Click here to view the criminal information in this case.

Read the DOJ’s press release on this case for additional information.

Also, you can read one of my prior blogs on a similar case in Florida.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers and other health care providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits, MAC audits, and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also health care providers in qui tam or False Claims Act (whistleblower) litigation and in other complex medical litigation. They also represent DME suppliers, physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions, and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid programs, They represent health care providers in formal and informal administrative hearings, federal or state.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.

Sources:

Sinay, Reenat. “Feds Charge 3 In Alleged $109M Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Law360. (October 2, 2020). Web.

Szaniszlo, Marie. “Three charged in multi-million dollar fraud scheme.” Sentinel Enterprise. (October 2, 2020). 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 Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law

By |2021-02-24T10:55:49-05:00May 19th, 2021|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Three Charged For $109 Million Medicare Fraud Plot and HIPAA Violations

George F. Indest III with 30+ years of experience, is Board Certified in Health Law

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

In October 2020, Massachusetts federal prosecutors charged three individuals for their alleged roles in a multi-million dollar plot to defraud Medicare. Two individuals allegedly collected patient health data and sold it to the purported mastermind, who then used it to submit $109 million in false Medicare claims.

Both individuals obtaining the personal health information were located in Florida, wouldn’t you know it. Each was charged with one count of receiving more than $1.6 million kickbacks in connection with a federal health care program. Prosecutors charged the third individual with criminal violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Stealing and selling personal health information is one of those HIPAA violations that will really, really get you in trouble. Very few people even know that such a HIPAA violation can be prosecuted as a federal felony crime.

Fraudulently Collecting & Using Patient Information.

According to court documents, both individuals in Florida owned marketing companies that enlisted foreign call centers to contact Medicare beneficiaries (which, I believe, I have received a number of). Using a prepared script, they allegedly asked if patients would be interested in receiving durable medical equipment (DME) such as knee braces or compression sleeves “at little to no cost.” (Does: “We are calling because of your back pain,” sound familiar?)

The call centers would then collect information including the Medicare patient’s name, address, insurance number, and doctor’s name and address, prosecutors said. The information was then sold to the third individual, who used it to file fraudulent Medicare claims for the DME that was never prescribed by a legitimate physician and was not medically necessary.

According to court records, the alleged co-conspirators used the same patients’ information repeatedly through a different shell company each time. More than 1,000 of the claims were made under the names of deceased beneficiaries. (Click here if you are deceased).

Click here to view the criminal information in this case.

Read the DOJ’s press release for more information.

Also, read one of my prior blogs on a similar case in Florida.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Health care Fraud Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, and other health care providers in Medicare audits, investigations and subpoenas, ZPIC audits, subpoenas and investigations, MAC audits, RAC audits, Department of Health (DOH) subpoenas and investigations, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) subpoenas and investigations, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) subpoenas, audits and investigations, OIG subpoenas, audits and investigations, and Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) subpoenas, audits, and investigations, in Florida, Colorado, Louisiana, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent DME suppliers, physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions, termination from the Medicare or Medicaid program, and state and federal administrative hearings and litigation.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.

Sources:

Sinay, Reenat. “Feds Charge 3 In Alleged $109M Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Law360. (October 2, 2020). Web.

Szaniszlo, Marie. “Three charged in multi-million dollar fraud scheme.” Sentinel Enterprise. (October 2, 2020). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law

 

Judge Won’t Toss Lawsuit Filed By Family of Florida Publix Employee Who Died of COVID-19

Attorney George F. Indest IIIBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On February 5, 2021, a judge in Florida refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the family of a Publix Super Markets deli worker who died after allegedly catching COVID-19 from a coworker. Judge Carlos Lopez announced that he would not dismiss the lawsuit filed by Gerardo Gutierrez’s family, who died on April 28, 2020, from complications caused by coronavirus. The suit was filed in the Florida Circuit Court for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Miami-Dade County, Florida, in November 2020.

Publix Accused of Failing Its Workers & the Miami Beach Community.

The suit alleged that on March 27 and 28, 2020, 70-year-old deli worker Gerardo “Gerry” Gutierrez worked at a Publix supermarket alongside a coworker who showed signs of COVID-19. Unfortunately, at that time, according to the complaint, Publix had made a decision to prohibit its employees from wearing masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

On April 2, Gutierrez was told by his supervisors to isolate at home; but by April 7, he tested positive for Covid-19, the complaint says. He died on April 28, 2020.

The family says in its complaint that Publix, a Florida-based grocery store chain, breached its duty to keep its employees safe. It knowingly failed to take proper precautions and prohibited its workers from wearing masks for fear it would “incite panic” among customers, claims the suit. The lawsuit echoes findings from an earlier Tampa Bay Times report that took the position that Publix lagged behind competitors in adopting employee and customer safety protections (such as employee PPE) during the early days of the pandemic.
Click here to learn more.

Additionally, the suit also references several Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) complaints, where employees repeatedly reported the grocer prohibited mask and glove use.

To view the family’s complaint, click here.

Publix Defends Itself.

In response to the lawsuit, Publix filed a motion to dismiss, calling the suit an attempt to circumvent the worker’s compensation process. Publix also argued that the claims in the case needed to be filed in the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. The worker’s compensation system in Florida requires that employees of a corporation must file workers compensation claims for injuries sustained on the job. Civil litigation is prohibited against the employer, with a number of exceptions. The judge in the civil case disagreed with Publix, ruling in favor of the estate of the worker.

According to the complaint, it wasn’t until March 2020, after the realization set in that the spread of COVID-19 presented a major national crisis for Publix to post a statement on its website. In the statement, Publix CEO Todd Jones said the company had remained in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and would “continue to focus on keeping [its] associates [employees] healthy—and [its] stores open and stocked—to serve and support all our communities.”

Click here to read the statement in full.

Despite the arguments, the family’s attorney Michael Levine said, “Publix has never taken any responsibility for its unthinkable decision to prohibit its employees from wearing masks as COVID-19 swept through Florida. Our case will make sure Publix is held accountable for its reckless decision. We look forward to uncovering the documents behind the mask prohibition and deposing its senior personnel.”

One problem that we see with this case is that many Publix employees work part-time. We had one working for our law firm, for example. By not allowing employees to wear proper PPE, and not requiring them to abide by other protective measures, the employer caused a far wider exposure of others, even many non-customers, and their families, to the COVID virus.

The case is Gutierrez v. Publix Super Markets Inc., case number 2020-025168-CA-01, and you can read the judge’s order in full here.

Read one of my prior blogs about OSHA previously handing out citations for COVID-19 PPE violations.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Bolado, Carolina. “Fla. Judge Won’t Ax Suit Over Publix Worker’s COVID-19 Death.” Law360. (February 5, 2021). Web.

Toropin, Konstantin. “Family files suit over Publix employee’s death. It says company failed to protect him from Covid-19.” CNN. (November 23, 2020). Web.

DiNatale, Sara. “A Publix employee died from COVID-19. Now his family is suing over his death.” Tampa Bay Times. (November 23, 2020). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Judge Sides With AdventHealth, Allows Fraud Claims Over $57.5 Million PPE Deal to Move Forward

Headshot of attorney George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On February 23, 2021, a federal court in Orlando, Florida, ruled that Adventist Health System Sunbelt (now known as AdventHealth, and which owns Florida Hospital, among others) could pursue claims it has over a bad $57.5 million deal to buy personal protective equipment (PPE). The defendants whom the hospital system is suing include Tomax Capital Management, Inc. (“Tomax”), a California corporation; a California attorney and his law firm; and others.

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron said the hospital system provided sufficient evidence that Tomax failed to deliver the promised PPE and then conspired to keep the $2 million which was not returned.

The PPE Contract.

According to the complaint in the case, the contract was for AdventHealth to purchase 10 million 3M N95 ventilator masks, according to the May 2020 complaint. Under the terms of the contract, the hospital was to pay a total of $57.5 million for 10 million 3M N95 masks to protect its workers during the Coronavirus pandemic. AdventHealth paid the $57.5 million into a California lawyer’s trust account. The 10 million masks were to be delivered to AdventHealth’s hospital in Orlando, Florida, by April 18, 2020. However, the masks never arrived.

Now, I just have to jump in and point out something. I don’t claim to have ironclad proof of it, but I have seen and read enough about 3M N95 masks on television and in the press while trying to purchase my own. I may be totally off on this figure, but I seem to remember around the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic that 3M was only manufacturing approximately 1 million masks a month. So where someone would be able to come up with 10 million of these specific masks is mind-boggling to me. Let’s just say that this is my own opinion.

When the hospital system requested a refund of the $57.5 million it had paid, it claims it was only refunded $55.5 million, with $2 million missing in action. According to the complaint, AdventHealth never saw the remaining $2 million despite assurance from the attorneys involved in the deal that AdventHealth would get it back. Hence, the present lawsuit.

I mean, if you can’t trust an attorney nowadays, who can ya’ trust?

A Civil Conspiracy?

In its suit, AdventHealth makes various claims of breach of contract, conversion, and civil conspiracy and requests actual damages, punitive damages, and prejudgment interest. The conspiracy would involve the allegation that the attorney and law firm conspired with Tomax and others to deprive AdventHealth of the $2 million. Because AdventHealth alleged that it suffered damages in Florida, it was able to bring its case to the federal court here in Orlando.

Read the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida for more details.

Granted, $2 million isn’t a lot of money to some people, but it was obviously enough money to get these Defendants sued in federal court.

Judge Sides With the Hospital System’s Position on Motion to Dismiss Complaint.

The federal court judge denied a motion to dismiss the complaint filed by Tomax. In his order, the judge stated: “Plaintiff sufficiently pleads facts supporting the existence of a civil conspiracy that caused injury in Florida.” In addition to allowing the claims of the hospital system to move forward, the judge also ruled that the court has the authority to exercise personal jurisdiction over the attorney and law firm that was involved, under the state’s long-arm statute. To obtain more details, read the judge’s order denying the motion to dismiss.  Click here to visit our Areas of Practice page and learn more on how The Health Law Firm can assist you in legal cases like this.

PPE a “Hot Issue.”

In another recent pandemic-related case, OSHA began issuing fines to health care systems over PPE violations such as lack of proper equipment for their employees. We have also read a number of reports about companies and individuals being fined and injunctions being obtained by the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration over phony PPE being sold to Americans over the Internet.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation in state and federal courts.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

Sources:

Hale, Nathan. “AdventHealth’s Fraud Claim Over $57M PPE Deal Advanced.” Law360. (February 23, 2021). Web.

Bolado, Carolina. “AdventHealth Sues Attorney Over Failed $57.5M Masks Deal.” Law360. (May 29, 2020). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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