List of Florida Nursing Schools Issuing Phony Diplomas in Operation Nightingale Increases to 19

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

A recent announcement by the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC), now known as the Washington State Board of Nursing, has listed 19 Florida schools that it states are or were involved in the fraudulent scheme investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as “Operation Nightingale.”


What Are the Names of the 19 Phony Florida Nursing Schools?

The 19 schools that NCQAC states were involved in taking nursing students’ money and issuing fake transcripts are:

Carleen Health Institute
Carleen Home Health School II
Ideal Professional Institute, Inc.
Jay College of Health LLC
Med-Life Institute – West Palm Beach
Med-Life Institute of South Florida
Med-Life Institute School of Nursing
Palm Beach School of Nursing
Quisqueya Health Care Academy
Quisqueya School of Nursing
Sacred Heart International Institute Inc.
Siena College of Health
Siena College of Health II LLC
Siena Education Center LLC
Sigma College
Sigma Institute of Health Careers
Sunshine Academy
Techni-Pro Institute
The Enfimye Institute

Some of the “newer” names on the list are owned and operated by some of the same fraudsters involved in the original “Gang of Six.” For example, Jay College of Health, LLC, was owned or operated by the notorious Johanah Napolean, who has been indicted and has been forced to forfeit millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains to the federal government. In reality, we believe there are many more than this.

How Many Have Been Caught and Convicted to Date?

For a list of the individuals who have been involved in the scam and who have been convicted through September 28, 2023, click here.

How Many More Phony Florida Nursing Schools Are There?  Plenty!

We receive calls several times a week from nursing students who have attended “nursing schools” in Florida who state that heir tuition and fees have been taken and they have completed all courses and activities the school required to obtain a diploma but:

a.  The school will not give them their diploma or transcripts or
b.  The school is requiring them to pay more and take more courses than promised or
c.  The school will not approve them to take the NCLEX examination to get a license or
d.  The school and its owners have disappeared, and they can’t get a transcript to transfer.

Why Is All of This Fraud Occurring in Florida?

Why does all of this fraud seem to be occurring in Florida?  It probably is not all of the fraud, only most of the fraud.  We have also heard about phony nursing schools doing business in other states.  But the vast majority of it seems to be in Florida.

Could this be because Florida prides itself in sheltering criminals and con men?  Probably.

Is this because Florida regulatory agencies do not bother to monitor and regulate the schools they approve as they are supposed to.  Most definitely.

Is this because Florida allows the use of shell companies and corporations to routinely defraud people so that the owners can disappear with their money without any consequences?  You know it!

Why do you think the industries of Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud, and healthcare fraud in general are doing so well here in Florida?

Why doesn’t Florida do something about it?  Because we would lose all of that stolen income that helps support the rich and powerful here, that’s why.

Florida’s history of cons, scams, and fraud goes way back to the real estate salespeople selling Florida swamp land to out-of-state yokels who then moved here only to find the property they purchased was underwater, literally.  And with Cuba only a boat ride away and many friendly Caribbean and South American countries only a direct plane flight away, suitcases full of cash can be spirited out of the country with little trouble.

Are you the victim of a phony nursing school not on the list?

Are you the victim of a phony nursing school not on the list?  Don’t call us; we can’t do anything about these criminals doing this.

Instead, you might consider calling the FBI and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), which is working hand-in-hand with the FBI and the various state nursing boards on these matters.  The NCSBN can get the word out quickly to the states involved.  Tell them you have been victimized by another school that should be part of “Operation Nightingale” and want to file a complaint.

The telephone number for the NCSBN is (312) 525-3600 or (888) 435-8242and ask for the Nursing Regulation Division, Nursing Education Section, or send an e-mail to [email protected] or send a written letter explaining the problem to:

National Council of State Boards of Nursing
Attn: Nurisng Regulation Division, Education Section
111 E. Wacker Drive, Suite 2900
Chicago, IL 60601.

The FBI’s main hotline for reporting possible criminal activity is (800) 225-5324, file a complaint or tip at https://tips.fbi.gov/home. Alternatively, and perhaps better, you can contact the Miami FBI Office, which is the one handling the Operation Nightingale investigation:

FBI Miami Dade Field Office
2030 S.W. 145th Avenue
Miramar, FL 33027
miami.fbi.gov
Phone: (754) 703-2000.

To see the Washington State NCQAC press release naming the 19 schools above, click here.

To see the original Department of Justice Press Release on Operation Nightingale, click here.

Click here to read one of our prior blogs on Operation Nightingale to learn even more.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Investigations Against Nurses and Nursing Students.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses, nursing students, and ARNPs in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensure defense representation, investigation representation, Department of Health investigations, DOJ investigations, Board of Nursing investigations, formal and informal administrative hearings, emergency suspension orders, emergency restriction orders and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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.


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.


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. View a list of open positions here.

“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.

By |2023-11-13T14:29:41-05:00November 13, 2023|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

United States Court of Appeals Denies U.S. Nursing Corporations Indemnification Challenge Against Nurse Staffing Agency

Author HeadshotBy 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 May 18, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a U.S. district court’s decision to deny U.S. Nursing Corporation a new trial. The appellate court stated that the opposing counsel’s closing argument and the erroneous preclusion of evidence had no substantial effect on the trial’s outcome; thus, there was no reversible error.
The First Lawsuit.
The original lawsuit filed in state court concerned a patient suing Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., for exacerbating his spinal injury. He claimed that a nurse transported him from a car into the emergency room without first stabilizing and immobilizing him, which caused further damage. When the incident occurred, the nurses on staff were two employees of Appalachian Regional and one supplied by U.S. Nursing Corporation to the hospital.
 The court granted a motion that dismissed the Appalachian Regional nurses as defendants because no evidence in the record alleged that they moved the patient. As the trial neared, the court granted another motion prohibiting the parties from introducing evidence that the Appalachian Regional nurses moved the patient from the truck into the emergency room.
This earlier state court lawsuit concluded with Appalachian Regional Healthcare paying $2 million in settlement and incurring $823,522.71 in legal fees.
It is important to note that when U.S. Nursing supplied its nurse to Appalachian Regional, they entered into an agreement that stated U.S. Nursing would indemnify and defend Appalachian Regional for the negligence of any of its employees assigned to Appalachian Regional. The settlement was reached, Appalachian Regional Healthcare demanded that U.S. Nursing indemnify it, but the staffing company refused to do so. In response, Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., sued U.S. Nursing for the $2,823,522.71 state court settlement it paid.
The First Appeal.
In its first appeal, U.S. Nursing argued that the opposing counsel made an inappropriate closing statement when they stated no evidence showed the Appalachian Regional Healthcare nurses moving the patient and that U.S. Nursing had not argued that such evidence existed. U.S. Nursing claimed this statement was inappropriate because it was prohibited from admitting evidence that showed Appalachian Regional Healthcare nurses having moved the patient. The appellate court decided that U.S. Nursing did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue, so the appellate court remanded to the district court to determine if the error required a new trial.
The nurse staffing company argued that it was incorrectly prohibited from introducing evidence regarding the other nurses on duty and the possibility that they could have been the ones to move the patient. U.S. Nursing also argued that the opposing counsel exploited the court’s error in their closing statements, though the district court never addressed this claim. However, the appellate court asserted that the evidence excluded would not have caused a different outcome at trial, so no new trial was granted.
The Second Appeal.
In its second appeal, U.S. Nursing argued that the district court abused its discretion when it determined the evidentiary error did not affect the trial. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the excluded evidence did very little to support U.S. Nursing’s argument, and excluding this evidence did not affect U.S. Nursing’s substantial rights. However, the court stated that the opposing counsel misled the jury with their statements. The remarks did not constitute an error significant enough to warrant a new trial since Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., was highly likely to prevail, despite counsel’s comments.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.
The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, dentists, dental assistants, physicians, physician assistants, mental health counselors, and other health providers. We also provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Source:
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. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620; Toll-Free (888) 331-6620
Hartley Brooks is a law clerk at The Health Law Firm. She is preparing to attend law school.
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 © 2023 George F. Indest III. All rights reserved.
By |2023-08-01T12:01:40-04:00October 4, 2023|Categories: Medical Education Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

United States Court of Appeals Denies U.S. Nursing Corporations Indemnification Challenge Against Nurse Staffing Agency

Author HeadshotBy 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 May 18, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a U.S. district court’s decision to deny U.S. Nursing Corporation a new trial. The appellate court stated that the opposing counsel’s closing argument and the erroneous preclusion of evidence had no substantial effect on the trial’s outcome; thus, there was no reversible error.
The First Lawsuit.
The original lawsuit filed in state court concerned a patient suing Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., for exacerbating his spinal injury. He claimed that a nurse transported him from a car into the emergency room without first stabilizing and immobilizing him, which caused further damage. When the incident occurred, the nurses on staff were two employees of Appalachian Regional and one supplied by U.S. Nursing Corporation to the hospital.
 The court granted a motion that dismissed the Appalachian Regional nurses as defendants because no evidence in the record alleged that they moved the patient. As the trial neared, the court granted another motion prohibiting the parties from introducing evidence that the Appalachian Regional nurses moved the patient from the truck into the emergency room.
This earlier state court lawsuit concluded with Appalachian Regional Healthcare paying $2 million in settlement and incurring $823,522.71 in legal fees.
It is important to note that when U.S. Nursing supplied its nurse to Appalachian Regional, they entered into an agreement that stated U.S. Nursing would indemnify and defend Appalachian Regional for the negligence of any of its employees assigned to Appalachian Regional. The settlement was reached, Appalachian Regional Healthcare demanded that U.S. Nursing indemnify it, but the staffing company refused to do so. In response, Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., sued U.S. Nursing for the $2,823,522.71 state court settlement it paid.
The First Appeal.
In its first appeal, U.S. Nursing argued that the opposing counsel made an inappropriate closing statement when they stated no evidence showed the Appalachian Regional Healthcare nurses moving the patient and that U.S. Nursing had not argued that such evidence existed. U.S. Nursing claimed this statement was inappropriate because it was prohibited from admitting evidence that showed Appalachian Regional Healthcare nurses having moved the patient. The appellate court decided that U.S. Nursing did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue, so the appellate court remanded to the district court to determine if the error required a new trial.
The nurse staffing company argued that it was incorrectly prohibited from introducing evidence regarding the other nurses on duty and the possibility that they could have been the ones to move the patient. U.S. Nursing also argued that the opposing counsel exploited the court’s error in their closing statements, though the district court never addressed this claim. However, the appellate court asserted that the evidence excluded would not have caused a different outcome at trial, so no new trial was granted.
The Second Appeal.
In its second appeal, U.S. Nursing argued that the district court abused its discretion when it determined the evidentiary error did not affect the trial. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the excluded evidence did very little to support U.S. Nursing’s argument, and excluding this evidence did not affect U.S. Nursing’s substantial rights. However, the court stated that the opposing counsel misled the jury with their statements. The remarks did not constitute an error significant enough to warrant a new trial since Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., was highly likely to prevail, despite counsel’s comments.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.
The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, dentists, dental assistants, physicians, physician assistants, mental health counselors, and other health providers. We also provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Source:
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. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620; Toll-Free (888) 331-6620
Hartley Brooks is a law clerk at The Health Law Firm. She is preparing to attend law school.
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 © 2023 George F. Indest III. All rights reserved.
By |2023-08-01T11:57:00-04:00September 21, 2023|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Nurses: You Must Insure Your Legal Protection

author headshot against a tan backgroundBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

I have news for you:  You need professional liability insurance!  But you only need the kind that includes professional liability insurance coverage, and in the amount of $25,000 or more.

Are you a traveling nurse?  Are you a nurse who works for a hospital or nursing home?  Are you a nurse who works in a doctor’s office?  Are you the nurse who is going to tell me:  “I think I have insurance coverage through my employer?”–WRONG!  Not professional license complaint defense insurance. You need to personally purchase your nursing professional liability insurance containing professional license defense coverage.   If you have yet to purchase this, you don’t have this.

The Insurance Coverage You Really Need.

Though many nurses pursue a career in nursing hoping that they will never face a complaint or disciplinary charges, any event not within a nurse’s control can lead to an investigation or administrative action. Nurses need to ensure they are covered with appropriate insurance if this ever occurs. In our opinion, based on decades of representing nurses, the primary reason that a nurse should purchase a professional liability insurance policy is to obtain coverage for the legal defense against complaints of licensing and disciplinary action commenced against a nurse.

License defense coverage pays the legal fees and costs associated with defending a nurse when an investigation is initiated that may result in action against her nursing license or disciplinary action against the nurse. Coverage is usually available when the nurse receives written notice that an investigation by a state agency has been initiated. It will also cover formal complaints against the nurse, informal hearings before the Board of Nursing, and formal administrative hearings before an administrative law judge. Such investigations, complaints, and administrative action may be opened based on events, including patient complaints, hotline calls, Code 15 reports, nursing home, and home health agency surveys, abuse investigations by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), newspaper articles, copies of lawsuits, and many other sources. It is far more likely that a nurse will be involved in one of these types of actions than being sued for nursing negligence.

You Want Insurance that Meets These Criteria.

Good professional liability policies, which provide coverage for licensure defense, will usually also compensate the nurse for her out-of-pocket expenses (travel, postage, etc.) that she incurs, as well as lost wages because of working time missed for hearings, depositions, etc. However, the maximum coverage available under such policies for licensure defense is usually limited to approximately $25,000. This amount will usually be sufficient to provide for most of the legal fees and costs involved in the defense of such a case.

Crucial to Check and Make Sure That Claims For Insurance Coverage Do Not Have to Be Linked to Malpractice Complaints.

Many professional liability insurance companies try to get off the hook on covering nurses on complaints against the nurse’s license, relying on provisions of the insurance policy that state that any coverage must be based on a claim of nursing malpractice.  AVOID THESE INSURERS AT ALL COSTS.  Most complaints against nurses’ licenses do not involve a claim made for nursing malpractice. To be sure, ask your insurer in writing ahead of time and get the answer in writing.  By the way, you never have this problem with Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance or CPH & Associates Insurance.

Who Files the Most Complaints Against Nurse’s Licenses? Employers.

It has been our experience that most complaints against nurses’ licenses are made by their former employer and/or former recruiting company.  Think about it, is your employer going to pay for insurance that covers you and provides you a defense in the event that the employer files a complaint against your license. The answer is “NO” regardless of what you think.

You are on your own.  Buy your own insurance.  It is very cheap and it will be there when you need it.

Even if the nurse is still employed (unlikely in the vast majority of cases) many employers will not provide legal representation if the matter involves licensing or disciplinary action against the nurse.  This could force the nurse to fund all the fees and costs associated with her defense. However, some larger corporations with sound risk management programs will provide the nurses with legal representation, but this is a rare exception.

For Traveling Nurses and Agency Nurses, Your Own Personal Insurance is a Must.

Suppose you are an agency nurse, a home health agency nurse, a nursing home nurse, an independent duty nurse, or a large hospital chain does not employ you. In that case, you should consider nursing liability insurance mandatory. Complaints of negligence against nurses working in these positions are far more likely. This may be because of the high turnover of nurses in some healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes), or because the nurse is no longer employed at the facility when the investigation begins (for example, in the case of an agency nurse). Additionally, agency nurses may only work in a facility for a short period, making them less familiar with the facility’s policies and procedures and not a part of the permanent team of nurses who may have established relationships and are more likely to cover for each other.

As previously mentioned, several different proceedings may be covered by the licensure defense coverage provided in professional liability insurance.  Defense of accusations of HIPAA privacy breaches is the most used one, followed closely by deposition representation.

The Cost of Professional Liability Coverage is Minimal.

Nurses can purchase liability coverage rather inexpensively. For example, an excellent insurance policy providing coverage for nurses is available through the Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance for less than $100 per year. CPH & Associates Insurance is also inexpensive and competitive.  Professional liability coverage provided by this type of insurance represents a bargain at these rates.

Focusing on Protecting the Nurse’s Individual Interests.

Perhaps most importantly, the nurse should have an attorney focusing only on her interests in defending her against any negligence or licensing complaint. A nurse with her own professional liability insurance coverage will be able to hire a separate, independent attorney, and often, the insurer will allow her to pick her attorney.


Important Considerations When Purchasing Liability Insurance Protection.

First and foremost is to be sure that a claim for defense of your professional license is covered by your insurance even when there is no separate claim or complaint for damages for malpractice or negligence.  Ask your broker or insurer to give you written acknowledgment of this, if your policy is unclear.

A close second is the amount of coverage for license defense that the insurer provides.  $25,000 is the absolute minimum and may not be enough.  Look for $35,000 or $50,000 coverage or buy two different policies from two different companies.

Third is how broad the coverage is and whether it also covers other types of administrative complaints and proceedings that might be brought against you such as discrimination complaints, HIPAA breach of privacy complaints, certification board complaints, and other similar proceedings.

Some professional liability insurers have a “broad form” of coverage which may provide legal defense for the nurse in almost any type of administrative action. This might include, for example, the defense of a discrimination complaint filed against the nurse with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and for Medicare and Medicaid complaints.

Other companies limit coverage to only actions that may result in disciplinary action against the nurse’s license. The nurse should always attempt to get the broadest coverage available for disciplinary defense and licensure defense coverage.

Additionally, the nurse should inquire whether she will be allowed to select her own attorney. Many insurance companies contract certain law firms to provide legal services on their cases for a reduced fee. The insurance company may require you to use one of its own hired attorneys or even one of its in-house attorneys, which it employs directly.

Given the limited number of attorneys with experience handling nursing law issues and malpractice cases, the nurse should attempt to obtain coverage through a company that allows her to choose her attorney.


In Our Opinion, License Defense Coverage Is the Most Important Reason to Purchase Insurance.

The most important reason to purchase professional liability insurance is the licensure defense coverage. A nurse does not want to risk losing her nursing license because she was unsuccessful at defending an investigation complaint against her license or did not have the resources to do so. Since there are far more complaints filed each year against nurses’ licenses than there are nursing malpractice lawsuits filed, it is far more likely that a working nurse will need legal defense of a licensure complaint investigation.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses and nurse practitioners in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing (BON) in licensing matters, in formal and informal administrative hearings, and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

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.


About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000 Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 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 © 2023 George F. Indest III.  All rights reserved.

By |2023-09-06T11:46:40-04:00September 6, 2023|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Nursing Students Sue College For Deceptive NCLEX Scheme

Author Headshot, smiling in dark blue suit with red tie in front of a light tan backgroundBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 2, 2022, four nursing students from HCI College (formerly Health Career Institute) in Florida filed a federal class action lawsuit against the school. The students claim the school conducted a “malicious scheme” to block 95% of students from graduating and taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The lawsuit also accuses the nursing school of misrepresenting its accreditation status and NCLEX passage rates.

Critical Details Of The Lawsuit.

The class action, brought by four named plaintiffs, was filed in Federal Court in West Palm Beach. The plaintiffs are demanding to have their loans canceled, and payments refunded and are seeking an injunction to allow all students to take the NCLEX exam.

The suit claims that HCI College misrepresented its accreditation status and lied about its NCLEX pass rates. It also states that it deliberately attempted to prevent students from graduating and taking the NCLEX by unfairly dropping them from the program or forcing them to pay to retake classes that HCI argued were non-transferrable. According to the filing, the school is accused of only graduating students who showed the highest likelihood of passing the NCLEX, thus fraudulently inflating the program’s pass rates.

A History of Alleged Questionable Conduct.

In 2018 and 2019, HCI was put on probation by the Florida Board of Nursing for having NCLEX pass rates below state standards for nursing programs. When they failed to obtain accreditation, the Florida BON terminated the nursing program on August 7, 2019.

Rather than attempt to improve the nursing program and apply for reinstatement, the school allegedly created a “new” program and obtained a different state identification number. They used the same curriculum and same instructors as before, but the “new” program allowed the poor pass rates of prior graduates to be wiped clean.

Then, the college was able to use the guise of this “new” program to mislead students and hide their termination status, lack of accreditation, and the dismal NCLEX pass rates of the “old” program.

The bottom line: creating a “new” program would theoretically buy the college five more years to meet BON accreditation requirements. Despite this, HCI continued to charge students approximately $50,000 in tuition and fees to complete their unfortunately subpar ASN program. Click here to view the plaintiff’s class action and learn more about this case.

HCI College disputes these claims and alleges a disgruntled former faculty member initiated the suit. You can read a statement issued on their website on the status of their Florida accreditation and the fake nursing diploma scheme here.

Key Takeaways From This Case.

This lawsuit and the recent fake nursing diploma scams in Florida highlight the adverse effects of insufficient regulation and oversight in Florida’s nursing education programs. Many nurses and nursing students contact our law firm for legal representation who are in very similar situations to the ones who brought the class action suit.

One must remember that Florida is a hotbed of fraud. Florida laws have always been slanted toward protecting fraudsters and con men. Perhaps the members of the Florida Legislature seem to have the attitude of “There but for fate go I.” Who knows? Corporate laws that allow the creation of shell corporations and companies and allow their owners to remain anonymous abound in Florida. It has always, in recent memory, been known as a “debtor’s haven” where people who owe others money could flee in order to avoid being held civilly liable for their debts.

 

Don’t Wait! Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Investigations Against Nurses and Nursing Students.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses, nursing students, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), CRNA’s and other health professionals in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, license defense hearings, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, board of nursing investigations, formal and informal administrative hearings, emergency suspension orders, emergency restriction orders, appeals and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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:

Roberts, Ayla. “4 Nursing Students Sue Florida College For Alleged NCLEX Scheme.” Nurse.org. (January 23, 2023). Web.

Bean, McKenzie. “Students sue Florida nursing school, alleging they were blocked from NCLEX.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (February 3, 2023). Web.

“4 Nursing Students Sue Their School Over Deceptive Scheme.” Nurse News Today. (February 13, 2023). Web.

Press Release. “Nursing Students Sue Florida For-Profit School, HCI College, for Deceitful Scheme to Block Students From Taking Licensing Exam and Trap Them in Debt.” The Project on Predatory Student Lending. (February 3, 2023). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2023-08-11T12:44:30-04:00September 5, 2023|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

United States Court of Appeals Denies U.S. Nursing Corporations Indemnification Challenge Against Nurse Staffing Agency

Author HeadshotBy 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 May 18, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a U.S. district court’s decision to deny U.S. Nursing Corporation a new trial. The appellate court stated that the opposing counsel’s closing argument and the erroneous preclusion of evidence had no substantial effect on the trial’s outcome; thus, there was no reversible error.
The First Lawsuit.
The original lawsuit filed in state court concerned a patient suing Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., for exacerbating his spinal injury. He claimed that a nurse transported him from a car into the emergency room without first stabilizing and immobilizing him, which caused further damage. When the incident occurred, the nurses on staff were two employees of Appalachian Regional and one supplied by U.S. Nursing Corporation to the hospital.
 The court granted a motion that dismissed the Appalachian Regional nurses as defendants because no evidence in the record alleged that they moved the patient. As the trial neared, the court granted another motion prohibiting the parties from introducing evidence that the Appalachian Regional nurses moved the patient from the truck into the emergency room.
This earlier state court lawsuit concluded with Appalachian Regional Healthcare paying $2 million in settlement and incurring $823,522.71 in legal fees.
It is important to note that when U.S. Nursing supplied its nurse to Appalachian Regional, they entered into an agreement that stated U.S. Nursing would indemnify and defend Appalachian Regional for the negligence of any of its employees assigned to Appalachian Regional. The settlement was reached, Appalachian Regional Healthcare demanded that U.S. Nursing indemnify it, but the staffing company refused to do so. In response, Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., sued U.S. Nursing for the $2,823,522.71 state court settlement it paid.
The First Appeal.
In its first appeal, U.S. Nursing argued that the opposing counsel made an inappropriate closing statement when they stated no evidence showed the Appalachian Regional Healthcare nurses moving the patient and that U.S. Nursing had not argued that such evidence existed. U.S. Nursing claimed this statement was inappropriate because it was prohibited from admitting evidence that showed Appalachian Regional Healthcare nurses having moved the patient. The appellate court decided that U.S. Nursing did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue, so the appellate court remanded to the district court to determine if the error required a new trial.
The nurse staffing company argued that it was incorrectly prohibited from introducing evidence regarding the other nurses on duty and the possibility that they could have been the ones to move the patient. U.S. Nursing also argued that the opposing counsel exploited the court’s error in their closing statements, though the district court never addressed this claim. However, the appellate court asserted that the evidence excluded would not have caused a different outcome at trial, so no new trial was granted.
The Second Appeal.
In its second appeal, U.S. Nursing argued that the district court abused its discretion when it determined the evidentiary error did not affect the trial. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the excluded evidence did very little to support U.S. Nursing’s argument, and excluding this evidence did not affect U.S. Nursing’s substantial rights. However, the court stated that the opposing counsel misled the jury with their statements. The remarks did not constitute an error significant enough to warrant a new trial since Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., was highly likely to prevail, despite counsel’s comments.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.
The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, dentists, dental assistants, physicians, physician assistants, mental health counselors, and other health providers. We also provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Source:
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. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620; Toll-Free (888) 331-6620
Hartley Brooks is a law clerk at The Health Law Firm. She is preparing to attend law school.
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 © 2023 George F. Indest III. All rights reserved.
By |2023-08-01T11:55:12-04:00September 1, 2023|Categories: Dental Law Blog, The Health Law Firm Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Nurses: You Must Insure Your Legal Protection

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

I have news for you:  You need professional liability insurance!  But you only need the kind that includes professional liability insurance coverage and in the amount of $25,000 or more.

Are you a traveling nurse?  Are you a nurse who works for a hospital or nursing home?  Are you a nurse who works in a doctor’s office?  Are you the nurse telling me:  “I think I have insurance coverage through my employer?”–WRONG!  Not professional license complaint defense insurance. You need to personally purchase your nursing professional liability insurance containing professional license defense coverage.   If you have yet to purchase this, you don’t have this.

The Insurance Coverage You Really Need.

Though many nurses pursue a career in nursing hoping that they will never face a complaint or disciplinary charges, any event not within a nurse’s control can lead to an investigation or administrative action. Nurses must ensure they are covered with appropriate insurance if this occurs. In our opinion, based on decades of representing nurses, the primary reason that a nurse should purchase a professional liability insurance policy is to obtain coverage for the legal defense against complaints of licensing and disciplinary action commenced against a nurse.

License defense coverage pays the legal fees and costs associated with defending a nurse when an investigation is initiated that may result in action against her nursing license or disciplinary action against the nurse. Coverage is usually available when the nurse receives written notice that an investigation by a state agency has been initiated. It will also cover formal complaints against the nurse, informal hearings before the Board of Nursing, and formal administrative hearings before an administrative law judge. Such investigations, complaints, and administrative action may be opened based on events, including patient complaints, hotline calls, Code 15 reports, nursing home, and home health agency surveys, abuse investigations by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), newspaper articles, copies of lawsuits, and many other sources. It is far more likely that a nurse will be involved in one of these types of actions than being sued for nursing negligence.

You Want Insurance that Meets These Criteria.

Good professional liability policies, which provide coverage for licensure defense, will usually compensate the nurse for her out-of-pocket expenses (travel, postage, etc.), as well as lost wages because of working time missed for hearings, depositions, etc. However, the maximum coverage available under such policies for licensure defense is usually limited to approximately $25,000. This amount will usually be sufficient to provide for most of the legal fees and costs involved in defending such a case.

Crucial to Check and Make Sure That Claims For Insurance Coverage Do Not Have to Be Linked to Malpractice Complaints.

Many professional liability insurance companies try to get off the hook on covering nurses on complaints against the nurse’s license, relying on the insurance policy’s provisions stating that any coverage must be based on a claim of nursing malpractice.  AVOID THESE INSURERS AT ALL COSTS.  Most complaints against nurses’ license do not involve a claim made for nursing malpractice. To be sure, ask your insurer in writing ahead of time and get the answer in writing.  By the way, you never have this problem with Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance or CPH & Associates Insurance.

Who Files the Most Complaints Against Nurse’s Licenses? Employers.

Our experience has been that most complaints against nurses’ licenses are made by their former employer and/or former recruiting company.  Think about it, is your employer going to pay for insurance that covers you and provides you a defense in the event that employer files a complaint against your license. The answer is “NO” regardless of what you think.

You are on your own.  Buy your own insurance.  It is very cheap, and it will be there when you need it.

Even if the nurse is still employed (unlikely in the vast majority of cases), many employers will not provide legal representation if the matter involves licensing or disciplinary action against the nurse.  This could force the nurse to fund all the fees and costs associated with her defense. However, some larger corporations with sound risk management programs will provide the nurses with legal representation, but this is a rare exception.

Your Own Personal Insurance is a Must for Traveling Nurses and Agency Nurses.

Suppose you are an agency nurse, a home health agency nurse, a nursing home nurse, an independent duty nurse, or a large hospital chain does not employ you. In that case, you should consider nursing liability insurance mandatory. Complaints of negligence against nurses working in these positions are far more likely. This may be because of the high turnover of nurses in some healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes), or because the nurse is no longer employed at the facility when the investigation begins (for example, in the case of an agency nurse). Additionally, agency nurses may only work in a facility for a short period, making them less familiar with the facility’s policies and procedures and not a part of the permanent team of nurses who may have established relationships and are more likely to cover for each other.

As previously mentioned, several different proceedings may be covered by the licensure defense coverage provided in professional liability insurance.  Defense of accusations of HIPAA privacy breaches is the most used one, followed closely by deposition representation.

The Cost of Professional Liability Coverage is Minimal.

Nurses can purchase liability coverage rather inexpensively. For example, an excellent insurance policy providing coverage for nurses is available through the Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance for less than $100 per year. CPH & Associates Insurance is also inexpensive and competitive.  Professional liability coverage provided by this type of insurance represents a bargain at these rates.

Focusing on Protecting the Nurse’s Individual Interests.

Perhaps most importantly, the nurse should have an attorney focusing only on her interests in defending her against any negligence or licensing complaint. A nurse with her own professional liability insurance coverage will be able to hire a separate, independent attorney, and often, the insurer will allow her to pick her attorney.


Important Considerations When Purchasing Liability Insurance Protection.

First and foremost is to be sure that a claim for defense of your professional license is covered by your insurance, even when there is no separate claim or complaint for damages for malpractice or negligence.  Ask your broker or insurer to give you written acknowledgment of this if your policy is unclear.

A close second is the amount of coverage for license defense that the insurer provides.  $25,000 is the absolute minimum and may not be enough.  Look for $35,000 or $50,000 coverage or buy two different policies from two different companies.

Third is how broad the coverage is and whether it also covers other types of administrative complaints and proceedings that might be brought against you such as discrimination complaints, HIPAA breach of privacy complaints, certification board complaints, and other similar proceedings.

Some professional liability insurers have a “broad form” of coverage that may provide legal defense for the nurse in almost any administrative action. This might include, for example, defense of a discrimination complaint filed against the nurse with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and for Medicare and Medicaid complaints.

Other companies limit coverage to only actions that may result in disciplinary action against the nurse’s license. The nurse should always attempt to get the broadest coverage available for disciplinary defense and licensure defense coverage.

Additionally, the nurse should inquire whether she will be allowed to select her own attorney. Many insurance companies contract certain law firms to provide legal services on their cases for a reduced fee. The insurance company may require you to use one of its own hired attorneys or even one of its in-house attorneys, which it employs directly.

Given the limited number of attorneys with experience handling nursing law issues and malpractice cases, the nurse should attempt to obtain coverage through a company that allows her to choose her attorney.


In Our Opinion, License Defense Coverage Is the Most Important Reason to Purchase Insurance.

The most important reason to purchase professional liability insurance is the licensure defense coverage. A nurse does not want to risk losing her nursing license because she was unsuccessful at defending an investigation complaint against her license or did not have the resources to do so. Since there are far more complaints filed each year against nurses’ licenses than there are nursing malpractice lawsuits filed, it is far more likely that a working nurse will need legal defense of a licensure complaint investigation.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses and nurse practitioners in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing (BON) in licensing matters, in formal and informal administrative hearings, and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

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.


About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000 Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 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 © 2023 George F. Indest III.  All rights reserved.

By |2023-08-14T14:02:28-04:00August 14, 2023|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Nursing Students Sue Florida School For Deceptive NCLEX Scheme

Author Headshot, smiling in dark blue suit with red tie in front of a light tan backgroundBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 2, 2022, four nursing students from HCI College (formerly Health Career Institute) in Florida filed a federal class action lawsuit against the school. The students claim the school conducted a “malicious scheme” to block 95% of students from graduating and taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The lawsuit also accuses the nursing school of misrepresenting its accreditation status and NCLEX passage rates.

Critical Details Of The Lawsuit.

The class action, brought by four named plaintiffs, was filed in Federal Court in West Palm Beach. The plaintiffs are demanding to have their loans canceled, and payments refunded and are seeking an injunction to allow all students to take the NCLEX exam.

The suit claims that HCI College misrepresented its accreditation status and lied about its NCLEX pass rates. It also states that it deliberately attempted to prevent students from graduating and taking the NCLEX by unfairly dropping them from the program or forcing them to pay to retake classes that HCI argued were non-transferrable. According to the filing, the school is accused of only graduating students who showed the highest likelihood of passing the NCLEX, thus fraudulently inflating the program’s pass rates.

A History of Alleged Questionable Conduct.

In 2018 and 2019, HCI was put on probation by the Florida Board of Nursing for having NCLEX pass rates below state standards for nursing programs. When they failed to obtain accreditation, the Florida BON terminated the nursing program on August 7, 2019.

Rather than attempt to improve the nursing program and apply for reinstatement, the school allegedly created a “new” program and obtained a different state identification number. They used the same curriculum and same instructors as before, but the “new” program allowed the poor pass rates of prior graduates to be wiped clean.

Then, the college was able to use the guise of this “new” program to mislead students and hide their termination status, lack of accreditation, and the dismal NCLEX pass rates of the “old” program.

The bottom line: creating a “new” program would theoretically buy the college five more years to meet BON accreditation requirements. Despite this, HCI continued to charge students approximately $50,000 in tuition and fees to complete their unfortunately subpar ASN program. Click here to view the plaintiff’s class action and learn more about this case.

HCI College disputes these claims and alleges a disgruntled former faculty member initiated the suit. You can read a statement issued on their website on the status of their Florida accreditation and the fake nursing diploma scheme here.

Key Takeaways From This Case.

This lawsuit and the recent fake nursing diploma scams in Florida highlight the adverse effects of insufficient regulation and oversight in Florida’s nursing education programs. Many nurses and nursing students contact our law firm for legal representation who are in very similar situations to the ones who brought the class action suit.

One must remember that Florida is a hotbed of fraud. Florida laws have always been slanted toward protecting fraudsters and con men. Perhaps the members of the Florida Legislature seem to have the attitude of “There but for fate go I.” Who knows? Corporate laws that allow the creation of shell corporations and companies and allow their owners to remain anonymous abound in Florida. It has always, in recent memory, been known as a “debtor’s haven” where people who owe others money could flee in order to avoid being held civilly liable for their debts.

 

Don’t Wait! Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Investigations Against Nurses and Nursing Students.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses, nursing students, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), CRNA’s and other health professionals in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, license defense hearings, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, board of nursing investigations, formal and informal administrative hearings, emergency suspension orders, emergency restriction orders, appeals and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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:

Roberts, Ayla. “4 Nursing Students Sue Florida College For Alleged NCLEX Scheme.” Nurse.org. (January 23, 2023). Web.

Bean, McKenzie. “Students sue Florida nursing school, alleging they were blocked from NCLEX.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (February 3, 2023). Web.

“4 Nursing Students Sue Their School Over Deceptive Scheme.” Nurse News Today. (February 13, 2023). Web.

Press Release. “Nursing Students Sue Florida For-Profit School, HCI College, for Deceitful Scheme to Block Students From Taking Licensing Exam and Trap Them in Debt.” The Project on Predatory Student Lending. (February 3, 2023). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2023-08-11T12:41:56-04:00August 11, 2023|Categories: Medical Education Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

States Take Action to Stop Nurses From Certain Schools From Caring For Patients

Author Headshot in dark grey suit and red tie with arms folded smiling in front of dark backgroundBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In late February 2023, multiple states began taking action against licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) because of the FBI’s “Operation Nightingale.” This is also being pushed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCBSN). “Operation Nightingale” is a federal investigation into a wire fraud scheme in which a number of now-closed Florida nursing schools allegedly sold phony nursing diplomas and transcripts from 2016 to 2022, which they then used to apply for and receive nursing licenses.

As a result of this, state nurse licensing officials are scrambling to stop nurses with fraudulent academic credentials from caring for patients. Thousands of notices of investigation from various states have gone out to nurses who indicated on their original licensing applications that they had graduated from one of these Florida Schools. What is really disheartening, however, is the fact that many of the schools involved were fully accredited schools of nursing. What is even more disheartening is that many nurses actually attended courses at these schools and did clinical rotations at these schools, earning their degrees honestly. Even these are receiving notices that they are now under investigation.

According to prosecutors, about 7,600 students paid an average of $15,000 for bogus diplomas. In addition, around 2,400 people passed a licensing exam to obtain jobs as registered nurses and licensed practical nurses in multiple states. It is not entirely clear how many of the roughly 2,400 nurses with credentials from the identified schools are currently employed, or where, officials said.

If you are a nurse who receives one of these notices of investigation from the Florida Department of Health (DOH) or any state board and you have insurance from CM&F Group, Nursing Service Organization (NSO), CPH & Associates, or one of the other professional liability insurance companies, your insurance company may cover your legal defense expenses. Call your insurance company or call us.

Are Honest Nurses Getting Caught Up In the Investigation? Yes, they are!

Attorneys for several nurses in New York and Georgia argue that nurses who legitimately earned diplomas are getting caught up in the investigation. “There are obviously people who bought transcripts who are fraudulent and should not be practicing nursing under any circumstances,” said Atlanta attorney Hannah Williams. “But there are also people who went to those schools legitimately and did nothing wrong. And they are somehow being lumped together with the fraudulent nurses.” The Health Law Firm’s president, George F. Indest III, in Orlando, Florida, also confirmed what Ms. Williams stated.

Additionally, New York’s Office of the Professions posted on the New York Education Department’s website that it expects some of the 903 licensees who attended the schools [who are now licensed in New York] “did attend required hours and clinical and are properly licensed.” As a result, those individuals are now being asked to have a qualified nursing program submit verification.

The Big Question: Have They Been Successful at Finding Any Nurses With False Credentials?

So far, the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission rescinded the nursing licenses of 17 people and denied license applications for four others. The Delaware Board of Nursing annulled 26 licenses. As well as the Georgia Board of Nursing asked 22 nurses to surrender their licenses voluntarily. Licensing officials in Texas filed administrative charges against 23 nurses, but they can continue working while their disciplinary cases are pending.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) said that it removed 89 nurses “from patient care” nationwide in 2022 immediately after being notified by federal officials of the potential problem. Still, the agency has not found any instances of harm done to patients.

In Florida, there are literally thousands of nurses who are being notified that they are under investigation related to this situation. Many have been practicing nursing for five years or more.

To learn even more, read my prior blog here.

In addition, you can stay on top of the Operation Nightingale investigation by checking for updates on our Articles and Documents section on our website.

What You Should Do If You Receive a Notice of Investigation or a Call from an Investigator.

If you receive any contact from any investigator, here is what you should do:

1. DO NOT TALK TO THE INVESTIGATOR OR MAKE ANY STATEMENT. Tell the investigator you must speak with your attorney first.

2. Contact your professional liability insurance company to see if you have coverage for this matter.

3. Contact an experienced health law attorney, immediately. DON’T WAIT! The attorney will be able to lead you through this process.

4. DO NOT TALK TO THE INVESTIGATOR OR MAKE ANY STATEMENT. Your attorney can do all the communicating from this point on.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Investigations Against Nurses and Nursing Students.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses, nursing students, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), CRNA’s and other health professionals in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, license defense hearings, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, board of nursing investigations, formal and informal administrative hearings, emergency suspension orders, emergency restriction orders, appeals and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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:

Hill, Michael. “States move to crack down on nurses with bogus diplomas.” Associated Press. (March 1, 2023). Web.

Whitford, Emma. “How Thousands Of Nurses Got Licensed With Fake Degrees.” Forbes. (February 21, 2023). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

United States Court of Appeals Denies U.S. Nursing Corporations Indemnification Challenge Against Nurse Staffing Agency

Attorney and Author George F. Indest III HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law, and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm
On May 18, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a U.S. district court’s decision to deny U.S. Nursing Corporation a new trial. The appellate court stated that the opposing counsel’s closing argument and the erroneous preclusion of evidence had no substantial effect on the trial’s outcome; thus there was no reversible error.
The First Lawsuit.
The original lawsuit filed in state court concerned a patient suing Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., for exacerbating his spinal injury. He claimed that a nurse transported him from a car into the emergency room without first stabilizing and immobilizing him, which caused further damage. When the incident occurred, the nurses on staff were two employees of Appalachian Regional and one supplied by U.S. Nursing Corporation to the hospital.
 The court granted a motion that dismissed the Appalachian Regional nurses as defendants because no evidence in the record alleged that they moved the patient. As the trial neared, the court granted another motion prohibiting the parties from introducing evidence that the Appalachian Regional nurses moved the patient from the truck into the emergency room.
This earlier state court lawsuit concluded with Appalachian Regional Healthcare paying $2 million in settlement and incurring $823,522.71 in legal fees.
It is important to note that when U.S. Nursing supplied its nurse to Appalachian Regional, they entered into an agreement that stated U.S. Nursing would indemnify and defend Appalachian Regional for the negligence of any of its employees assigned to Appalachian Regional. The settlement was reached, Appalachian Regional Healthcare demanded that U.S. Nursing indemnify it, but the staffing company refused to do so. In response, Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc. sued U.S. Nursing for the $2,823,522.71 state court settlement it paid.
The First Appeal.
In its first appeal, U.S. Nursing argued that the opposing counsel made an inappropriate remark in their closing statement when they stated no evidence showed the Appalachian Regional Healthcare nurses moving the patient and that U.S. Nursing had not argued that such evidence existed. U.S. Nursing claimed this statement was inappropriate because it was prohibited from admitting evidence that showed Appalachian Regional Healthcare nurses having moved the patient. The appellate court decided that U.S. Nursing did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue, so the appellate court remanded to the district court to determine if the error required a new trial.
The nurse staffing company argued that it was incorrectly prohibited from introducing evidence regarding the other nurses on duty and the possibility that they could have been the ones to move the patient. U.S. Nursing also argued that the opposing counsel exploited the court’s error in their closing statements, though the district court never addressed this claim. However, the appellate court asserted that the evidence excluded would not have caused a different outcome at trial, so no new trial was granted.
The Second Appeal.
In its second appeal, U.S. Nursing argued that the district court abused its discretion when it determined the evidentiary error did not affect the trial. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the excluded evidence did very little to support U.S. Nursing’s argument, and excluding this evidence did not affect U.S. Nursing’s substantial rights. However, the court stated that the opposing counsel misled the jury with their statements. The remarks did not constitute an error significant enough to warrant a new trial since Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc., was highly likely to prevail, despite counsel’s comments.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.
The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, dentists, dental assistants, physicians, physician assistants, mental health counselors, and other health providers. We also provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in the Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Source:
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. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620; Toll-Free (888) 331-6620
Hartley Brooks is a law clerk at The Health Law Firm. She is preparing to attend law school.
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 © 2023 George F. Indest III. All rights reserved.
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