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Question: Is Exposure to COVID-19 For Nurses and Other Healthcare Workers, Causing Illness, Disability, or Death, Considered an Employment-Related Injury Under Workers’ Comp Coverage?

Attorney Amanda I. ForbesBy Amanda I. Forbes, J.D. and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In answering the question posed in the title of this blog, first, it should be noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies COVID-19 as an “occupational disease.”  (Reference:  World Health Organization, “Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak: Rights, Roles and Responsibilities Of Health Workers. . . .”)

Click here to view the classification by the WHO on our website.

Most state workers’ compensation laws cover the worker for occupational diseases if the worker acquires it during the course and scope of their employment.  For example, Section 440.151(2), Florida Statutes, states:

Whenever used in this section the term “occupational disease” shall be construed to mean only a disease which is due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation, process, or employment, and to exclude all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed, unless the incidence of the disease is substantially higher in the particular trade, occupation, process, or employment than for the general public. “Occupational disease” means only a disease for which there are epidemiological studies showing that exposure to the specific substance involved, at the levels to which the employee was exposed, may cause the precise disease sustained by the employee.

Section 440.151(2), Florida Statutes, (emphasis added).  Many other states have similar requirements to those of Florida.

Healthcare workers are at the front line of any outbreak response and as such are exposed to hazards that put them at an increased risk of infection with the COVID-19 virus.  Therefore, as COVID-19 meets the criteria as an “occupational disease.”

Moreover, Section 440.151(1)(a), Florida Statutes, states:

Where the employer and employee are subject to the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Law, the disablement or death of an employee resulting from an occupational disease as hereinafter defined shall be treated as the happening of an injury by accident, notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter, and the employee or, in case of death, the employee’s dependents shall be entitled to compensation as provided by this chapter, except as hereinafter otherwise provided; and the practice and procedure prescribed by this chapter shall apply to all proceedings under this section, except as hereinafter otherwise provided.  Provided, however, that in no case shall an employer be liable for compensation under the provisions of this section unless such disease has resulted from the nature of the employment in which the employee was engaged under such employer, was actually contracted while so engaged, and the nature of the employment was the major contributing cause of the disease. Major contributing cause must be shown by medical evidence only, as demonstrated by physical examination findings and diagnostic testing. “Nature of the employment” means that in the occupation in which the employee was so engaged there is attached a particular hazard of such disease that distinguishes it from the usual run of occupations, or the incidence of such disease is substantially higher in the occupation in which the employee was so engaged than in the usual run of occupations. In claims for death under s. 440.16, death must occur within 350 weeks after last exposure. Both causation and sufficient exposure to a specific harmful substance shown to be present in the workplace to support causation shall be proven by clear and convincing evidence.

Section 440.151(1)(a), Florida Statutes.

It is important to note that COVID 19 or any other communicable disease (TB, H1N1, etc.):  The employee has to test positive for the disease/contagion and it must be determined with a reasonable amount of certainty that their exposure to the virus occurred in the workplace and was not community-acquired.

In addition,  per Section 440.151(1)(c), Florida Statutes states:

Where an occupational disease is aggravated by any other disease or infirmity, not itself compensable, or where disability or death from any other cause, not itself compensable, is aggravated, prolonged, accelerated or in anywise contributed to by an occupational disease, the compensation shall be payable only if the occupational disease is the major contributing cause of the injury. Any compensation shall be reduced and limited to such proportion only of the compensation that would be payable if the occupational disease were the sole cause of the disability or death as such occupational disease, as a causative factor, bears to all the causes of such disability or death, such reduction in compensation to be effected by reducing the number of weekly or monthly payments or the amounts of such payments, as under the circumstances of the particular case may be for the best interest of the claimant or claimants. Major contributing cause must be demonstrated by medical evidence based on physical examination findings and diagnostic testing.

Section 440.151(1)(c), Florida Statutes, (emphasis added).

With regard to emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics Section 440.09(3), Florida Statutes, states:

If an emergency medical technician or paramedic is appointed or employed full time by a municipality, the state, or any political subdivision, is certified under chapter 401.23, in an emergency situation in this state, any such activities would be considered to be within the course of his or her employment and an emergency medical technician or paramedic and covered by the employer’s jurisdiction or area of responsibility, such activities are considered to be within the course of employment. The provisions of this subsection do not apply if the emergency medical technician or paramedic is performing activities for which he or she is paid by another employer of contractor.

Section 440.09(3), Florida Statutes (emphasis added).

Workers Compensation Benefits for Healthcare Professionals.

As of March 26, 2020, Florida has not issued any order or legislation explicitly stating that healthcare professionals exposed to COVID-19 will be entitled to Workers Compensation benefits.

By way of example, In the City of Phila. v. Workers’ Comp. Appeal Bd. (Sites), 889 A.2d 129 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2005), a claimant was successful in proving that his hepatitis C was caused by his exposure to blood that occurred while working as a firefighter and emergency medical technician  (EMT).  Similar to COVID-19, hepatitis C was also classified as a compensable “occupational disease.”  Therefore, it is likely that a healthcare professional’s exposure to COVID-19 would result in viable workers’ compensation claim.

Federal workers’ compensation laws are similar to those quoted above. Therefore, federal health care providers and those working in federal facilities will also most probably be entitled to federal employment compensation (FECA) benefits under similar situations.

We want to emphasize that this is merely our preliminary opinion based on limited analysis and research.  It is provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the provision of legal advice.  Each state has different workers’ compensation laws and different case law, as does the federal government. Each individual set of circumstances may be different. Contact your local workers’ compensation plaintiff’s (claimant’s) attorney for advice and representation in your individual case.

For more information and more examples of employment compensation benefit cases for health care professionals, click here.

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, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, 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 student professors and clinical staff. We represent 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, in patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

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

About the Authors:  Amanda I. Forbes, practices health law with The Health Law Firm in its Altamonte Springs, Florida, office.  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.

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Will a Death from COVID-19 be Considered “Accidental Death” for Life Insurance Policies or a Death from “Accidental Causes?”

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

Almost all life insurance policies, including term policies, pay a “double indemnity,” that is, double the limits of coverage if a death occurs from “accidental causes” as opposed to “natural causes.”  A question arises, given the COVID-19 pandemic, of whether a death caused by the novel corona versus would be considered a natural death or an accidental death.  Fortunately, there is some guidance on this issue.

One reason it is important to distinguish between “accidental death” and “natural death” is that:

There is no pandemic exclusion for life insurance.  General life insurance covers pandemics, assuming you were truthful about your travel plans and exposure to illness during the application process.  . . . .  An accidental death & dismemberment policy is more limited and covers deaths only when they’re accidental.  It generally doesn’t [usually] cover deaths caused by illness and disease.

Nat’l Ass’n of Ins. Comm’rs, COVID-19 & Ins. (2020), https://content.naic.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/Insurance%20Brief%20-%20Covid-19%20and%20Insurance.pdf. (Emphasis added).

Definition of “Accidental Death”

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, an “accidental death” is defined as:  “A death that results from an unusual event, one that was not voluntary, intended, expected, or foreseeable.”  Accidental Death, Black’s Law Dictionary (4th pocket ed. 2011).  Likewise, Ballentine’s Law Dictionary states than an “accidental death” is:

One that occurs unforeseen, undesigned, and unexpected. 29 Am J Rev ed Ins § 1166.  One which occurs by accident, that is, was not designed or anticipated, albeit it may occur in consequence of a voluntary act.

Accidental Death, Ballentine’s Law Dictionary (3rd ed. 1969).

Under the above two definitions, definitions that are usually considered to come from the common law, death from the COVID-19 virus would be considered to be an “accidental death.”

Look to State Insurance Laws for Definitions.

One should also immediately look at the state’s insurance statutes to see if their state’s law defines “accidental death” in terms of insurance coverage.  As an example, Florida law provides such definitions in Chapter 627 of Florida Statues which deals with insurance contracts.

Section 627.429(5)(c), Florida Statutes, is of particular note.  Regarding death from HIV, for example, it states:

Except for preexisting conditions specifically applying to sickness or medical condition of the insured, benefits under a life insurance policy shall not be denied or limited based on the fact that the insured’s death was caused, directly or indirectly, by exposure to the HIV infection or a specific sickness or medical condition derived from such infection. This paragraph does not prohibit the issuance of accidental death only or specified disease policies.

Section 627.429(5)(c), Florida Statutes (emphasis added).

This is significant because the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a very slow-acting disease that harms one’s immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection.  Death may not occur for years, even decades from an infection.  Whereas, COVID-19 is a fast-acting respiratory virus.  If death from HIV could be considered an “accidental death,” than death from COVID-19 certainly could be classified as “accidental death,” as well.


Legal Arguments for “Accidental Death”

If you have a death in your family and there is life insurance coverage on that person, you should not accept the insurance company’s determination that the death is from “natural causes” as opposed to “accidental death.” Challenge this decision, in court, if necessary.

A death caused by the COVID-19 virus is clearly “from an unusual event.”  I doubt that anyone would even contest this issue.  It is also clearly “one that was not voluntary, intended, [or] expected.”  Again, the novel coronavirus pandemic has taken the world by surprise.  How can anyone in their right mind argue that it was truly “expected.”  “Foreseeable” would be an objective test as to whether this was something “reasonably foreseeable.”  It does not appear, from the shock and unreadiness displayed by state and national governments and health officials, that this event was truly reasonably foreseeable.

I did not foresee it, did you?  If 99.999% of the populace did not foresee it, how can it be argued that it is reasonably foreseeable?  At the very least, this is a jury question and the foregoing should be argued to the jury.  If the average reasonable man (the man who is a legal fiction) did not foresee this pandemic and the deaths that result, how can it not be an “accidental death”?  It seems that any jury would be hard-pressed to find other than an “accidental death.”

 
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, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, 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 student professors and clinical staff. We represent 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, in patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

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

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.

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Orlando-based Assisted Living Facilities Appeal ALJ Decision, Win Case Against AHCA

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

Two related assisted living facilities (ALFs) based in Orlando won a case against the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) on appeal. The First District Court of Appeal heard the case and filed an opinion in favor of the ALFs on November 30, 2011.

 To view the opinion in this case, click here.

Appeals Court Dismissed Three Complaints Made by AHCA.

On appeal, the ALFs challenged a final order issued by AHCA. The amended final order revoked the ALFs’ licenses, denied their licensure renewal applications, and imposed administrative fines. 

After conducting an investigation, AHCA filed a four count administrative complaint. The court of appeal dismissed AHCA’s conclusion that the first three counts were proven. The appeal court dismissed these counts because they consisted of uncorroborated hearsay.

AHCA Alleged ALFs’ Owners Operated Third Facility Without a Valid License.

The fourth count against the ALFs alleged that the ALFs’ owners/administrators operated a third Florida facility without obtaining a valid license or qualifying for a license exemption. The ALFs argued that AHCA failed to present any witness at the administrative hearing who had first-hand knowledge that the facility in question was providing personal services “for a period of 24 hours to one or more adults who are not relatives of the owner or administrator.” These are material elements of the statutory definition of assisted living facility that AHCA was required to prove.

AHCA Offered Testimony from the ALFs’ Employees at Administrative Hearing.

At the administrative hearing, AHCA offered testimony from an employee who worked at the third facility from 8:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. She testified that the facility had five or six residents when she worked there for six weeks in Summer 2009. She said that she never saw a resident leave the facility at the end of the day or arrive in the morning.

In the recommended order, the administrative law judge (ALJ) found that there was no evidence presented by the ALFs that the residents were transported to another location at night. Click here to view the recommended order.

Court of Appeal Rules ALJ Improperly Shifted the Burden of Proof, Reverses Final Order.

The First District Court of Appeal ruled that the ALJ improperly shifted the burden of proof to the ALFs. The burden was misplaced when the ALJ suggested that the ALFs should have provided proof that the residents were transported out of the facility during the night. According to the court of appeal, it was AHCA’s burden to establish that the facility was an unlicensed ALF. Furthermore, the court ruled that the testimony offered by AHCA did not foreclose the possibility that these residents were at the facility for periods less than 24 hours. Therefore, the court ruled that AHCA did not meet its burden of proof. The final order was reversed.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Assisted Living Facilities.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent assisted living facilities (ALFs) and ALF employees in a number of different matters including incorporation, preparing contracts, defending the facility against malpractice claims, licensing and regulatory matters, administrative hearings, and routine legal advice.

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

Sources Include:

Smallwood, Mary F. “Adjudicatory Proceedings.” Administrative Law Section Newsletter. (Apr. 2012).

LeadingAge Florida. “Florida Supreme Court Requested to Hear ALF Case.” LeadingAge Florida. (2012). From: http://www.fahsa.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=96

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.

Appeal Court Rules AHCA Was Justified in Withdrawing Home Health Agency’s License Application

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

The First District Court of Appeal has ruled that the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) had substantial justification to withdraw a home health agency’s application for licensure in a recent case. To view the opinion, click here.

Home Health Agency Challenged AHCA’s Decision to Withdraw Application.

AHCA withdrew the home health care facility’s license application because the application allegedly contained insufficient information. The application did not provide enough information for AHCA to verify actual ownership of the facility.

The home health agency challenged AHCA’s decision. The administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled that AHCA incorrectly withdrew the application. According to the ALJ, the application was complete, and the home health agency met all the requirements for licensure at the time the application was submitted. To view the recommended order, click here.

Home Health Agency Awarded Attorney’s Fees by ALJ.

After receiving this favorable order, the home health agency moved for attorney’s fees pursuant to section 57.111(4)(a), Fla. Stat. The home health agency argued that AHCA had no justification for withdrawing its license application. At a separate hearing, the ALJ awarded attorney’s fees to the home health care facility.

Appeal Court Reverses ALJ’s Ruling.

AHCA appealed this decision. On its license application, the home health agency had allegedly claimed that one person had sole ownership of the facility. However, a letter informing AHCA of litigation contesting the sole ownership claim was included with the license application. According to the court of appeal, given the uncertainty the home health agency created concerning its ownership, there was substantial justification for AHCA’s action. The ALJ’s ruling was reversed by the court of appeal.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Home Health Agency Cases.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent home health agencies and home health agency employees in a number of different matters including incorporation, preparing contracts, defending the facility against malpractice claims, licensing and regulatory matters, administrative hearings, and routine legal advice.

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

Sources Include:

Agency for Health Care Administration v. MVP Health, Inc. 74 So. 3d 1141 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011)

Smallwood, Mary F. “Attorney’s Fees.” Administrative Law Section Newsletter. (Apr. 2012).

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.

Florida Suspends 81 Massage Therapists’ Licenses

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

According to a number of sources, state authorities have announced the suspension of more than 80 massage therapists’ licenses, who appear to have fraudulently obtained their licenses with the help of a Florida College of Natural Health employee. On September 19, 2012, 81 emergency suspension orders (ESOs) were signed, suspending the licenses of massage therapists who are part of ongoing investigations.

To see the entire press release from the Florida governor’s office, click here.

Investigation Found More Than 200 Therapists Obtained Their Licenses Fraudulently.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, earlier this year the Florida Department of Health (DOH), Clearwater Human Trafficking Task Force and the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force began an investigation into several massage therapy businesses. The investigation turned up more than 200 massage therapists who appeared to have obtained their massage therapy licenses by fraud.

Florida Massage School Employee Helped Obtain the Fraudulent Licenses.

It is believed the 200 people did not enroll in massage therapy school, but received transcripts showing they completed training at the Florida College of Natural Health in Pompano Beach, Florida. The Tampa Bay Times article states that these people allegedly paid between $10,000 and $15,000 to an individual who worked at the Florida College of Natural Health in exchange for transcripts.

The transcripts were then used to get massage licenses from the DOH.

The governor has now ordered a seven-day review of massage schools to ensure they are complying with licensure requirements and regulations. Authorities believe more suspensions will likely be issued.

Massage Therapist Suspensions Thought to Be Tied to Human Trafficking.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, in a news conference authorities said the emergency suspension orders were, in part, an effort to target Florida’s human trafficking problem. Authorities said massage parlors are a typical place for finding victims of human trafficking.

Authorities also said they do not know if these 81 fake massage therapists are victims of human trafficking. It is clear, however, they are not operating legally.

Click here to read the entire article from the Tampa Bay Times.

Reference Articles for Licensed Massage Therapists.

On our website we provide helpful information for licensed massage therapists. To read about the consequences of having your massage therapy license revoked (or relinquishing it after a notice of an investigation), click here. To see the 25 biggest mistakes made by massage therapists after being notified of a DOH complaint, click here. You can also click here to read our advice for preparing for an informal hearing before the Florida Board of Massage Therapy.

Routine Legal Advice Given to Massage Therapists.

We routinely advise massage therapists and all other licensed health professionals with whom we have a legal consultation:

1. Do NOT speak with any Department of Health (DOH) investigator until you have talked to an experienced health law attorney.
2. Do not make any written statement or respond to any letters from the DOH until you have talked to an experienced health attorney.
3. Read everything you receive and be sure to file election of rights (EOR) statements by the deadline, but only after consulting with an experienced health lawyer.
4. You should not attempt to defend yourself without an attorney.
5. Attempting to talk your way out of the situation or explain your side of it will only hurt you.
6. Many types of massage therapist insurance will actually pay for an attorney to defend you in this type of situation.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Sources:

Department of Health. “Governor Rick Scott Joins Law Enforcement and Anti-Human Trafficking Groups to Suspend Licenses of 81 Massage Therapists.” DOH News Room. (September 19, 2012). From: http://newsroom.doh.state.fl.us/wp-content/uploads/newsroom/2011/08/91912-EOGMassage-Therapy-Licenses.pdf

Velde, Jessica. “Florida Suspends 81 Massage Therapists’ Licenses.” Tampa Bay Times. (September 19, 2012). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/florida-suspends-81-massage-therapists-licenses/1252355#

Turner, Jim. “Florida Suspends 81 Massage Therapists in Human Trafficking Probe.” Sunshine State News. (September 19, 2012). From: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/blog/florida-suspends-81-massage-therapists-human-trafficking-probe

About the Authors: Joanne Kenna, J.D., R.N., 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., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Consequences of Having Your Massage Therapy License Revoked (Or Relinquishing it after Notice of an Investigation)

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

Many massage therapists, when confronted with an investigation against their license, do not fight the charges, sometimes they decide it is cheaper and easier just to give up their license. Either choice is likely to be a mistake.

A charge can be filed causing an investigation to be opened against a massage therapist by many different sources and often without any supporting evidence. If challenged and defended by an attorney with knowledge and experience in such matters, these investigations may often be dismissed with no disciplinary action against the massage therapist’s license.

Massage Therapists Often Go on to Obtain Licenses in Other Health Specialties.

A massage therapist often has to spend tens of thousands of dollars on school tuition and sacrifice a year or more of their lives to meet the basic criteria for licensing. In many cases this is merely a stepping stone for a later degree and license in another healthcare specialty, such as physical therapy, nursing, acupuncture, or chiropractic medicine.

Your Greatest Assets are Your Professional and Personal Reputation.

One of the maxims that the Romans took as truth was: “A good reputation is more valuable than money,” (attributed to Publilius Syrus approximately 100 B.C.). Socrates wrote in approximately 400 B.C.: “Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of.”

However, despite the fact that you may have worked hard, sacrificed and paid a fortune for an education and training in massage therapy, many are willing to sacrifice their personal reputation rather than paying a few thousand dollars to fight unjust charges against them. What they do not realize is the permanent black mark that will be placed on their record and the long term, devastating consequences of any such action.

When Confronted with Charges Most Massage Therapists Do Not Defend Themselves.

It is my opinion, based on what I have seen at Florida Board of Massage Therapy meetings and reviewing Florida Board of Massage Therapy meeting minutes, very few massage therapists, when confronted with an investigation or charges, hire an attorney to defend them. This may be because they do not have the financial resources or because they underestimate the harm that will be caused to their personal or professional reputations.

Regardless, in my personal opinion and experience:

1. Few massage therapists return their election of rights (EOR) forms on time and therefore, a default is entered against them.

2. Few massage therapists return their election of rights (EOR) forms to state they are contesting the facts and desire a formal hearing to contest the charges against them.

3. Few massage therapists even bother to show up at informal hearings involving their licenses.

4. When they do, they show up at a hearing with a spouse or friend to represent them instead of an experienced attorney familiar with such matters (Q: If you needed brain surgery, would you have it performed by a spouse or friend instead of an experienced neurosurgeon?)

5. If they do retain an attorney to advise and represent them, they either go with the cheapest one they can find or go with one who has no experience at all before the Board of Massage Therapy. (Q: If you needed brain surgery, would you pay your family practice physician to perform it?)

Best Advice: Purchase Insurance with Professional License Defense Coverage.

Often physicians and others concerned about liability issues ask our advice on asset protection in case they are sued. We advise them that their best way of protecting their assets is to purchase good insurance that will pay for a legal defense that protects them against unjust law suit. The same principle applies to massage therapists; except that massage therapy insurance is much, much cheaper, and the major liability that a massage therapist will face is usually from a complaint against his or her license.

If you purchase massage therapy liability insurance, you must make sure that it covers defense expenses of a complaint filed against your license. Many such policies do not. Additionally, you should be sure that it provides at least $25,000 in coverage for such matters. This should be sufficient to provide adequate coverage in the event a fully contested formal hearing is required to defend you.

We have seen many policies and they are as different as night and day in this coverage. When purchasing a professional liability policy, always ask about such coverage. Get the coverage stated in writing. To date, the only company we have experienced which is providing such coverage for massage therapists, and at an incredibly low price, is Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO). Compare this with whatever you have now. If you know of others that provide this coverage, I would like to hear from you.

It has been my personal experience that a massage therapist will be 30 or 40 times more likely to need licensure defense coverage as ever to need defense against a civil lawsuit.

Additional Consequences of Discipline on Your Massage Therapy License.

There are many, many additional adverse consequences that you will experience if you receive discipline on (especially revocation of) your massage therapy license. First and foremost, this is on your record forever; it never comes off and cannot be expunged. Additionally, it will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and available anywhere you go in the future in any state, to any licensing board. There are many others. I will detail these in a future blog.

Voluntary Relinquishment after Investigation Has Started Treated as Revocation, the “Death Sentence.”

Many massage therapists believe that the easy and cheap way out if a complaint is filed and an investigation is opened is to resign their license. This is treated the same as a disciplinary revocation and is reported that way. You should never expect to work in health care again or to have a health professional license in any other health specialty or in any other state.

Burden of Proof Is on the State to Prove the Allegations Against You; You Don’t Have to Prove Anything.

If the state brings charges against your massage therapy license, the burden of proof is on the state, just as in a criminal investigation. You do not have to prove anything, and in most cases, you should never make any statement to an investigator or attorney representing the state department of health; these can only be used against you to prove the state’s case against you.

You can remain silent, not say anything and not produce any evidence, and the state may not have enough witnesses or evidence to ever prove a case against you.

Most massage therapists, their non-lawyer representatives and their inexperienced lawyer representatives make a very big mistake. They advise the massage therapist to be interviewed or to make a statement “explaining themselves.” There is no criminal defense attorney worth his or her salt that would ever advise a criminal defendant to do this. Why then must they take leave of their senses and advise a health professional to do this in a “quasi-criminal” or “quasi-penal” investigation? This is almost always very bad advice.

Then, request a formal hearing and contest the facts. Don’t admit to them!

Conclusion: Defend Your Reputation and Massage Therapy License.

In conclusion, take precautions and defend your professional livelihood, your professional reputation and your professional license.

This is Florida. We have hurricanes. If you have a house you own, you purchase insurance on it to protect yourself in the event of a hurricane.

Without your license, you will not have an income and you will not be able to even make house payments. Why wouldn’t you purchase professional insurance that would pay for a defense in the event of that worst case scenario, an investigation of your license. Why wouldn’t you defend yourself to the max if this happened? This will probably feel worse to you and have worse long-term implications to you financially than any hurricane.

Stay tuned to this blog for more.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with an Experienced Health Law Attorney Early.

Do not wait until action has been taken against you to consult with an experienced attorney in these matters. Few cases are won on appeal. It is much easier to win your case when there is proper time to prepare and you have requested a formal hearing so that you may actually dispute the facts being alleged against you.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing massage therapists in investigations and at Florida Board of Massage Therapy hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Department of Health (DOH) Asking Suspended Florida Massage Therapists to Voluntarily Relinquish Their Licenses

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

On September 19, 2012, Florida state authorities announced the suspension of more than 80 massage therapists’ licenses. They are accused of fraudulently obtaining their licenses based on fake documentation obtained from a staff member at the Florida College of Natural Health, in Pompano Beach, Florida. On September 20, 2012, one massage therapist, whose license was suspended, spoke to the Sun Sentinel saying she had legitimately completed all of the requirements to obtain a license and is now being asked by the Department of Health (DOH) to voluntarily relinquish her license.

Click here to read the original blog post on the suspension of 81 massage therapists’ licenses.

Alleged “Rogue” Employee at the Florida College of Natural Health Immediately Terminated.

According to the Sun Sentinel, every massage therapist that had his or her license suspended allegedly received fraudulent documents from a “rogue” employee at the Florida College of Natural Health. The documents allegedly made it appear the person had completed the necessary course requirements to obtain a massage therapy license. Officials with the Florida College of Natural Health said the former staff member was immediately terminated when the scam came to light.

Alleged Fake Documents Spotted by a DOH Official.

A DOH official noticed the difference between one applicant’s fraudulent credentials and the actual course load at the Florida College of Natural Health, according to the Sun Sentinel. The credentials allegedly stated the applicant had completed a 500-hour massage course, but according to the school, the basic massage program the college offers is 768 hours.

One Suspended Massage Therapist Speaks Out.

One South Florida massage therapist spoke to the Sun Sentinel about her license suspension. She claims the investigation against her license has no merit, and said she studied at three different schools, including the Florida College of Natural Health. A check on the DOH website, showed that she has been licensed in Florida since 2008.

To read the Sun Sentinel article, click here.

DOH Requesting Suspended Massage Therapists to Voluntarily Relinquish Licenses.

According to the now suspended massage therapist, she received a notice of investigation letter from the DOH. Included in the letter was a Voluntary Relinquishment of License form.

There is a blog on our website about the consequences of having a massage therapy license revoked or relinquishing a license upon notice of an investigation. Click here to read this prior blog.

From experience, we know a charge can be filed causing an investigation to be opened against a massage therapist by many different sources and often without any supporting evidence. If challenged and defended by an attorney with knowledge and experience in such matters, these investigations may often be dismissed with no disciplinary action against the massage therapist’s license.

Other Consequences of a Voluntary Relinquishment.

A voluntary relinquishment in such circumstances is treated the same as a disciplinary revocation. The negative consequences of this are many and long lasting. They include:

1. Mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) (Note: Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently folded into NPDB) which remains there for 50 years.

2. Any other states or jurisdictions in which the client has a license will also initiate action against him or her in that jurisdiction. (Note: I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states).

3. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of Health and Human Services (HHS) will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program. If this occurs (and most of these offense require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the HHS OIG.

4. If the above occurs, the provider is also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting and is placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) debarment list.

5. The massage therapist’s national board or certifying organization will act to revoke his or her certification. After this, you won’t be able to be licensed anywhere in the U.S.

For more reasons why a health care provider should not relinquish a professional license, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health (DOH) Investigations of Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Sources:

Clarkson, Brett. “Over 80 Massage Therapists in Trafficking Probe Used Fake Credentials from Same College, Say Regulators.” Sun Sentinel. (September 20, 2012). From: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-09-20/news/fl-massage-trafficking-20120920_1_massage-therapists-massage-licenses-fake-credentials

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.

Christopher E. Brown, J.D., 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., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

The Collateral Effects of Voluntary Relinquishment with Investigation Pending or other Discipline on Your Massage Therapy License

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

Many massage therapists are unaware of the drastic long-term effects that discipline on their massage therapist license could have. This includes submitting a voluntary relinquishment of the massage therapist’s license while there is an investigation pending or while there are charges pending. Although this particular article is being prepared specifically for massage therapists, similar principles apply to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, dentists, mental health counselors and other licensed health professionals.

A voluntary relinquishment of the license after notice of the opening of an investigation or while a charge is pending is treated the same as a disciplinary revocation of the license. It is reported out the same and is treated the same. In some cases it may even be worse, if the agreement to voluntarily relinquish also includes an agreement to never apply for another license again.

Even discipline on the massage therapy license such as a suspension, probation, restrictions, etc., can have far-lasting adverse repercussions. Most people do not understand what else can happen as a result of a discipline, revocation or even voluntary relinquishment (under these circumstances).

Reports to National Organizations on the Discipline.

First and foremost, the discipline (including voluntary relinquishment) will be a public record. It will also be reported out to national reporting agencies, including the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).

As a result of the report to the NPDB, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will probably start action to exclude the disciplined therapist from the Medicare Program and place him or her on the OIG’s List of Excluded Individual’s and Entities (LEIE). This will bar you from the Medicare Program or working for or contracting with anyone else who does (including insurer’s medical clinics and most health care providers). This by itself will also have many negative consequences. For example, if you are excluded from the Medicare Program you are automatically placed on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) “debarred” list. You are automatically excluded from working for or contracting with, in any capacity, any organization, individual or agency that has any government contracts or accepts any federal funding. This act can bar you from working for a public school, working as a real estate agent, or many other jobs.

The NCBTMB will also take action to revoke your national certification given by the NCBTMB. This will exclude you from being licensed in any other state.

Summary of Adverse Consequences of Revocation or Other Discipline.

To summarize, the most important adverse problems that may be caused as a result of discipline on your license, may include the following:

1. May cause discipline to be commenced against any other health professional license you have, such as a nurse, acupuncture physician, chiropractic assistant, nurse’s aide, home health assistant, etc.

2. Will prevent you from obtaining any health professional license in the future.

3. May cause discipline to be commenced against any massage therapy establishment license for a massage therapy establishment you own in whole or in part.

4. Any other states or jurisdictions in which you have a license will also initiate action against him or her in that jurisdiction.

5. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) will also take action to revoke your national certification given by the NCBTMB. This will exclude you from being licensed in any other state and will cause any other state in which you are licensed to take action against you.

6. Mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB)), which remains there for 50 years. (Note: Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently folded into NPDB.)

7. The OIG of HHS will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program. If this occurs, (and most of these offenses require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the OIG HHS.

8. If the above occurs, the provider is also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting and is placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) debarment list.

9. Third party payors (health insurance companies, HMOs, etc.) will terminate the professional’s contract or panel membership with that organization.

10. Regardless of any of the above, any facility licensed by AHCA (hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), public health clinics, group homes for the developmentally disabled, etc.) that are required to perform background screenings on their employees will result in AHCA notifying the facility and the professional that he or she is disqualified from employment.

What Can be Done?

If you have submitted a voluntary relinquishment without understanding the consequences, and the Board of Massage Therapy (“Board”) has not acted to accept it, you may withdraw it. What we do is submit a letter to the Executive Director of the Board stating it was submitted by mistake without fully understanding the consequences, and the massage therapist desires to withdraw the voluntary relinquishment. We submit this immediately (keeping a copy, of course) and by certified mail, return receipt requested, so we have proof of sending and proof of receipt.

However, you must also ask for a formal hearing to dispute the facts in your case, as well. We usually do this at the same time and by the same method. If you fail to request a formal hearing, then you are waiving your rights to challenge your guilt or innocence.

If you have requested an informal hearing, you have made a big mistake. For an informal hearing, you admit that everything stated in the complaint against you is true. You have admitted that all of the charges against you are correct, so you are pleading guilty to the charges. You are then giving up the right to have a hearing to determine whether you are really guilty or innocent. All you are going to be arguing about is the punishment you will receive. You will not be allowed to testify on or introduce any evidence on your guilt or innocence.

If you have submitted a request for an informal hearing, not realizing this, then what we usually do is to submit an immediate request to have the hearing changed over to a formal administrative hearing where you are allowed to dispute the facts against you and prove your innocence. In such a case, it is necessary to submit a Petition for a Formal Administrative Hearing and to specify which facts are contested or disputed and why.

The case is then sent to a neutral administrative law judge (ALJ) to hold a hearing on the case. The state Department of Health (DOH) (the parent agency over the Board of Massage Therapy) is then required to prove the facts against you by clear and convincing evidence. In fact, you do not even have to introduce any evidence or testimony, the burden of proof is on the DOH to prove the case against you.

Emergency Suspension Orders (ESOs), Appeals and Election of Rights (EOR) Forms.

In Florida, if you have an Emergency Suspension Order (ESO), you can appeal it to a court of appeal. The problem with this is that it is very technical to do so and is very costly. Call an attorney who specializes in appeals or appellate law and ask. Additionally, the court of appeal only rules on the law and not the facts. The appeal court will be required to accept everything that is stated in the ESO as true. There is no fact hearing, there are only legal arguments. Your basic case will be delayed while this takes place, and you will probably lose on appeal. This may not be the correct choice for you.

However, if there is an ESO, you also have the right to an expedited fact hearing on it. This may be the best course of action if you have documents and facts to show you are not guilty of the charges.

Furthermore, there will also be an additional document served on you, an administrative complaint (AC). When you receive the AC, it will probably say just about the same thing as the ESO. You will be given your hearing rights when this occurs (called an “Election of Rights” form or “EOR”). As we indicated above, you will almost always want to select a formal administrative hearing in which you dispute (challenge or contest) the allegations (charges) made against you. This is the only way you will have the right to have a full and fair hearing on your innocence of the charges. Make sure it is submitted in plenty of time to be received within the 21 days given. Seek legal advice in completing it. Do not admit to anything; you don’t have to as the state DOH has the burden of proof.

The Need for an Experienced Health Law Attorney.

It is very difficult to take the actions necessary yourself if you do not have any legal training. Nonlawyers make many stupid mistakes in these proceedings, including submitting written statements that can be used against them when they do not have to do so, talking to the DOH investigator or Board personnel, talking to the DOH prosecuting attorney, making admissions which can be used against them, and waiving their rights when they do not have to do so.

Most attorneys are not familiar with these types of procedures if they do not practice health law. They do not realize that the same rights which apply in criminal cases also apply to professional licensure cases. You need to find and hire an attorney experienced in this type of case. That would be a health law attorney, and preferably one who is Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Health Law.

What You Should Do.

So the bottom line is that if you are innocent and want to dispute any charges against you, you should:

1. If you have professional insurance coverage, such as HPSO Insurance, see if your insurance will cover your legal defense expenses in this type of case. Many will. We know HPSO will.

2. Act right away to request all of your rights in any matter. Make sure that anything you submit is actually received (not mailed, received) before the deadline given.

3. Do not call, write or speak to the DOH investigator, Board personnel, DOH personnel or the DOH attorney.

4. Do not make a statement, written or oral, to the DOH investigator, Board personnel, DOH personnel or the DOH attorney.

5. Contest (dispute or fight) every action that might be stated against you, including one by the NCBTMB or OIG.

6. Do not admit to anything you don’t have to as the state DOH has the burden of proof.

7. Keep copies of all forms or letters submitted, along with proof of mailing and proof of receipt (send via certified mail, return receipt requested).

8. Retain the services of a health lawyer who has experience in Board of Massage Therapy/Department of Health (DOH) cases (ask him or her how many he or she has actually done). DO THIS FIRST, NOT LAST!

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health (DOH) Investigations of Massage Therapists.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Practicing Medicine Without a Medical License Lands Miami Couple Behind Bars

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

By now, you have heard stories of fake doctors and dentists in South Florida working on patients and causing severe injuries.

Usually, these are solo efforts. However, according to CBS Miami, a couple was arrested back in August of 2011, for practicing medicine without a license. The wife owned a clinic where the husband treated patients. The majority of the patients were children, but the fake doctor also apparently performed gynecological exams on female patients.

Click here to see the story from CBS Miami.

Phony Doctor’s Clinic Fooled Customers.

The clinic apparently looked legitimate to its customers, and other facilities would even refer patients there. A legitimate licensed physician, listed as the clinic supervisor, claims he was duped by the clinic and believed that the fake doctor was a nurse practitioner. The real physician also accuses the fake doctor of forging his signature.

The fake doctor holds only a license to operate x-ray machines. From a check on the Department of Health (DOH) website, that license expired seven years ago.

Real Physician Faces Charges for Assisting Fake Doctor.

The real physician was under investigation for his alleged involvement with the fake doctor and the clinic. Though the arrests happened in November 2011, the real physician was served with a complaint by the DOH just recently, on May 29, 2012.

Click here to see the real physician’s administrative complaint.

The real physician is accused by the DOH of assisting the fake doctor in his unlicensed practice of medicine. The outcome of the proceedings has yet to be seen.

Practicing Medicine Without A Legitimate License Is a Crime.

Practicing medicine without a license is a crime. Additionally, so is helping someone practice medicine without a license. As a practitioner, you may be asked to supervise or join a practice. Remember, your license may be at stake with any wrongdoing by your subordinates. Before you join a practice or agree to supervise others, check first with the DOH that the other providers are legitimate.  You can verify a license for free on the DOH’s website.

Remember, a license to practice medicine in Venezuela, Cuba, or anywhere else, is just that: a license to practice in that country. It does not allow a person to practice medicine in the United States.

More Stories on Fake Physicians and Other Health Professionals to Come.

In the near future on this blog, we will include additional articles on fake doctors and health professionals, some old, some new.

To see a blog on a fake South Florida dentist and the damage he inflicted on a teenage girl, click here. To read a blog on an infamous Florida teen impersonating a physician’s assistant (PA), click here. You can also read the story of a fake plastic surgeon in New York by clicking here.

Comments?

What do you think if this story? Leave a comment below.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Representing Health Care Providers in DOH Cases.

If you find yourself working for or supervising someone that does not have a valid Florida license, your own license may be at risk. If and when the Department of Health (DOH) becomes involved, do not sign anything, do not speak to the investigators and do not make any statements. Contact an experienced health law attorney immediately to review your case.

The Health Law Firm represents dentists, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies.

If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

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

Sources:

CBS Miami. Accused Fake Doctor, Wife Bond Out of Jail. CBS Miami online. (August 25, 2011). From: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2011/08/25/police-arrest-accused-fake-doctor-in-miami/

About the Authors: Danielle M. Murray 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., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Advice for All Massage Therapists: Please Talk to a Lawyer Before You Talk to the Department of Health (DOH) Investigator

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

Massage therapists, I beseech you: please do not talk to a Department of Health (DOH) investigator until you have talked to a health lawyer who is experienced with DOH investigations and board licensing complaints.  Do not answer or respond to even the most basic questions about where you work now, what your address is or if you know patient x, until consulting with counsel.

Admitting to Anything May Hurt Your Case.

We are routinely consulted by massage therapists and other healthcare providers for representation after they have discussed the case and after it is too late to undo the damage they have caused to themselves. Often they do not understand the seriousness of the matter or the possible consequences, until it is too late. Admitting to even the most basic facts causes damage to any possible defense.

Administrative Licensure Investigations are “Semi-Criminal.”

The vast majority of massage therapists and even most attorneys do not realize that DOH investigations concerning complaints against a massage therapist’s license are considered to be “penal” or “quasi-criminal” proceedings.  This means the same laws and constitutional rights apply to them as apply to criminal investigations.  However, since they are also administrative proceedings and not strictly criminal proceedings, investigators do not need to advise you of your Miranda rights or tell you you have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc.

In any criminal investigation a good criminal defense attorney would always tell you “Do not talk to the investigator” and “Tell the investigator you have a lawyer.”

How Investigators Try to Get You to Not Talk to an Attorney.

DOH investigators, police investigators, FBI investigators and other law enforcement officers, are well trained in investigative techniques and how to get information out of suspects.  Often the approach used is to catch you by surprise before you even know there is an investigation and the investigation is of you.  Another technique used is to lull you into a false sense of security that the investigation is about someone or something else and not you.  Another investigative technique is to convince you that you need to “Tell your side of the story” so that the investigation is accurate.  Yet another is that “Things will go much better for you if you cooperate.”  None of these things are true.

However, if it is truly in your best interest to cooperate or to make a statement, after you consult with your attorney, your legal counsel will surely advise you to do this.  The investigator should not mind waiting until you consult your attorney.  However, many will go to extremes to convince you that you don’t need an attorney and shouldn’t get an attorney.

Consult an Experienced Health Law Attorney.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in dealing with DOH investigators, AHCA surveyors, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, FBI agents, police and sheriff’s office investigators, OIG special agents (S/As) and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigators. 

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

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.

Disclaimer: Please note that this article represents our opinions based on our many years of practice and experience in this area of health law. You may have a different opinion; you are welcome to it. This one is mine.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only; it is not legal advice.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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