Florida Federal Judge Clarifies Earlier Order Dismissing $320 Million Qui Tam/False Claims Act Suit
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. dismissed whistle blower Nancy Chase’s lawsuit against LifePath Hospice, Inc., and Good Shepherd Hospice, Inc., on September 22, 2016. He found that Chase did not sufficiently plead fraud in her suit and called it“clearly frivolous,” dismissing it with prejudice. The federal government and the state (Florida) had declined to intervene in Ms. Chase’s case. However, now the federal government has now requested that Judge Moody to clarify his decision to state that the original dismissal was “without prejudice” to the U.S. to bring its own False Claims Act (FCA) case at a later date.
The judge clarified that his earlier dismissal of the whistle blower’s $320 million qui tam (or FCA) suit against the hospice care provider did not affect the government’s ability to file its own lawsuit. This decision was entered on October 21, 2016.
Judge Granted the Government’s Request.
To see a copy of Judge Moody’s brief decision granting the government’s request, click here. In circumstances such as this, the government had argued, and Judge Moody agreed, the more appropriate decision would have been a dismissal without prejudice against the government. Regardless, Ms Chase’s case remained closed and permanently dismissed.
“That dismissal should not serve as precluding the United States from, at some point in the future, pursuing a claim against defendants for violations of the False Claims Act,” Judge Moody said. “This is because the dismissal against Chase was based on her failure to plead her claim with particularity and because the United States took no part in drafting the complaint.”
Chase’s Sealed Complaint.
Nancy Chase, a social worker who was employed at LifePath from 1992 through December 2012, filed her complaint under seal in 2010. She accused the hospice groups of conspiring with several doctors and assisted living facilities, in exchange for kickbacks. The alleged scheme involved certifying that patients had terminal conditions so they would qualify for hospice care; to bill health care programs for more expensive treatments than were actually necessary; and to establish a way to ensure patients could be recertified.
One complaint alleged more than $4.5 billion in false claims, but that number dropped to $20 million annually over a 16-year period, totaling $320 million in a subsequent complaint.
Judge Moody found that Chase had fallen “well short” of meeting pleading requirements regarding the alleged FCA violations. To read more on Nancy Chase’s suit, click here.
Click here to read one of my prior blogs on an alleged FCA Suit.
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Kennedy, John. “US Given Chance to Refile $320M FCA Suit.” Law360. (October 21, 2016). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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