Ex-Navy Officer Sentenced to 2.5 Years in Prison For $2 Million Insurance Fraud

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm

On October 18, 2023, an ex-Navy officer was sentenced to 30 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in an insurance fraud scheme. The judge tacked on an extra three years of post-release supervision.

The case is U.S. v. Cote et al., case number 3:18-cr-01674, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

The Fraudulent Scheme.

The former Naval officer admitted to conspiring with eight others to defraud the Traumatic Service Members Group Life Insurance Program. This insurance program provides short-term financial support for injured service members.

The former officer allegedly worked closely in the fraud scheme with his then-spouse, who was a Navy nurse, and a Navy doctor.

The scheme consisted of submitting fake or exaggerated injuries to the insurance company to enrich themselves. The ex-Navy officer submitted false claims to the program and encouraged numerous other Navy personnel to submit false claims.

The Navy personnel would submit their medical records to the former officer’s then-wife. As a Naval nurse, she would allegedly falsify the records and the Naval doctor would sign off on the documents. The ex-Navy officer received kickbacks under the guise of a “processing fee.”

The scheme defrauded the insurance program of $2,000,000, and the former Navy officer personally received $400,000, according to the reports on the case. He was sentenced to 30 months for conspiracy to commit wire fraud with three years of supervised release.

What is happening to the others involved in this scheme is not clear at this time. It is doubtful that they will have long, successful Navy careers.

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:

Correll, Diana Stancey. “Former Navy chief sentenced in $2 million insurance fraud scam.” Navy Times. (19 October 2023) https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2023/10/19/former-navy-chief-sentenced-in-2-million-insurance-fraud-scam/

Danney, Micah. “Ex-Navy Officer Gets 2.5 Years For $2.5M Insurance Fraud.” Law360. (18 October 2023) https://www.law360.com/health/articles/1734129?nl_pk=0cbd4c0b-c6c8-416a-9e67-b4affa63b102&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=health&utm_content=2023-10-19&read_main=1&nlsidx=0&nlaidx=14&detected=1

Lehrfeld, Jonathan. “Former sailor pleads guilty in $2 million insurance fraud scam.” Navy Times. (1 November 2022) https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2023/10/19/former-navy-chief-sentenced-in-2-million-insurance-fraud-scam/

United States v. Toups No. 3:18-cr-01674 (S.D. Cal October 16, 2023)

About the Authors: 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. Hartley Brooks is a Law Clerk at The Health Law Firm. 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2024 George F. Indest III, The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form in any medium for any purpose without the written permission of the copyright holder. The copyright holder/creator reserves the right to have his name associated with every part of this work.

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NC Medical Malpractice Suit Against the U.S. Dismissed Due to 4-Year Time Limit

author headshot standing in a dark suit against grey backgroundBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm

On July 18, 2023, a federal judge in North Carolina granted a motion to dismiss a suit against Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune based on a state law four-year time bar on malpractice claims.

Background Facts.

We have the facts from the court’s decision in this case.

On December 3, 2016, the plaintiff patient arrived at the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune Emergency Department with abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. After examination, she was diagnosed with a kidney stone and discharged. But her symptoms worsened, and she returned to the Naval Hospital the next day with a fever, shortness of breath, and disorientation.

The plaintiff was transferred to medical intensive care with concerns of septic shock. Upon her second discharge from the Naval Hospital, she was diagnosed with severe sepsis, shock, heart, lung, and kidney failure.

During treatment, the patient was prescribed vasopressors, which raise blood pressure by constricting blood vessels. The medications caused her to develop gangrene on her fingers and toes, resulting in the amputation of her hands and feet.

She sued the United States on October 21, 2022, for alleged negligence regarding her treatment at the Naval Hospital. This suit came after a four-year administrative process with the Department of the Navy that began in 2018.


North Carolina Time Bar.

The federal government argued in its motion to dismiss that the North Carolina statute of repose applied to the medical malpractice claim against the U.S., and that it barred the plaintiff from pursuing the matter in court.

A statute of repose establishes a maximum specified time period in which a suit must be brought for a cause of action to be recognized. As the name implies, a statute or repose kills the cause of action completely; it is an unyielding and absolute barrier that prevents a plaintiff’s right of action after the specified time.  A statute of repose is different from a statute of limitations because statutes of limitations merely make a claim unenforceable after a specified time period.

The North Carolina statute of repose prohibits bringing an action for medical malpractice more than four years from the defendant’s last act that gives rise to the claim. The defendant’s last act in this case was December 4, 2016, and the plaintiff filed the suit October 21, 2022, exceeding the four-year time bar imposed by North Carolina law.

The Federal Torts Claims Act.

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is a law passed by Congress to allow some types of lawsuits against the United States for negligent acts its employees commit when they are acting within the course and scope of their employment as federal employees.  Otherwise, the doctrine of sovereign immunity bars such suits (no one is allowed to sue the king!).  It can be found in 28 U.S. Code Chapter 171 (28 U.S.C. Sections 2671-2680).  The FTCA applies the law of the state in which the tort occurs.

In response to the defendant’s motion to dismiss, the plaintiff argued that the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) preempted the state’s statute of repose and gave her a cause of action.  However, the FTCA is limited in that it only imposes tort liability on the United States in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under similar circumstances by the state’s law where the act occurred. In other words, the FTCA incorporates state law.

The plaintiff argued that the FTCA overrides North Carolina’s time bar because it imposes its own time limitations. The FTCA states that all tort claims against the United States are barred forever unless an administrative claim is presented in writing to the appropriate federal agency within two years of the claim’s arising. It also states that claims are barred unless the court action is filed within six months after the administrative claim is denied by the federal agency.

The plaintiff argued that the FTCA preempted the North Carolina statute of repose because the FTCA spells out how it preempts statutes of limitations.  However, the two statutes are not the same.

The court agreed that the statute of repose applied to the tort claim, barring it.

In fact, all the federal circuit courts that have considered the issue have ruled consistently that the FTCA incorporates state statutes of repose and does not preempt them.

Judge’s Decision.

The judge conceded that the delay in the administrative process was unfortunate. However, the court ruled, it was still inappropriate to expand the FTCA’s provisions to override the state’s time bar. The court held that the North Carolina statute of repose applied to the medical malpractice suit against the federal government, which meant that the plaintiff could not bring a cause of action against the U.S. or the naval hospital.

The judge also stated that the FTCA only allows lawsuits against the United States if the state’s law permits a similar suit against a private person. Since the North Carolina statute of repose would not have allowed the lawsuit to be filed against a private doctor, it cannot be filed against the United States. Accordingly, the judge dismissed the case.


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 representation includes military (Army, Navy and Air Force) physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, medical students and interns, as well as other federal and civilian health care providers.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in civil litigation in state and federal courts. We represent physicians and other health professionals in cases before medical boards, before state licensing agencies, and in National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) disputes.  We 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 or toll free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Source:

Baldwin v. United States, No. 7:22-CV-180-FL. (E.D.N.C., July 18, 2023).

Bland, Travis. “NC Time Bar Ends Med Mal Suit Over Amputations.” Law360. (18 July 2023). https://www.law360.com/health/articles/1701132?nl_pk=0cbd4c0b-c6c8-416a-9e67-b4affa63b102&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=health&utm_content=2023-07-19&read_main=1&nlsidx=0&nlaidx=15


About the Authors: 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. Hartley Brooks is a law clerk with the health law firm. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in health law practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: [email protected] or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2023  The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

9th Circuit Court Rules Former Nurse Can Proceed With Med Mal Suit Against VA Hospital

By 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 the 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:
 Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and former registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

“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 |2023-02-04T19:00:33-05:00February 6, 2023|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

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.

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