Iowa Appellate Court Reverses $6 Million Nursing Home Negligence Decision Because of Hearsay Testimony

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 June 21, 2023, the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned the verdict in a nursing home negligence case that awarded $6 million in compensation and damages to the plaintiff. The case was reversed and remanded for a new trial because the trial court judge admitted inadmissible hearsay testimony into evidence. The testimony being appealed was that of staff members who claimed to have heard “reports” and “rumors” of alleged abuse by a nurse on staff toward not only the resident in question but other residents.
Hearsay in Iowa law is defined as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Click here to read the Iowa Rules of Evidence concerning hearsay. This is the same definition used by the federal and most other courts.
Essentially, hearsay is when someone repeats something they heard from another person and presents it as if they know it to be true. Hearsay is often equated to rumor. Hearsay is not admissible due to the nature of speculation required in making such a statement, the fact that such statements are inherently unreliable and that the actual witness is not in court to answer questions about it. Thus there is no way for a party or the judge to test the credibility of the actual witness or determine facts that may have influenced the observation and statement.
Hearsay is considered unreliable because the person who knows what happened (who saw what happened or heard what happened) is not to be questioned about it. Therefore, there is no way to know what really happened for sure.
Details of the Case. 
In this case, the estate of the former nursing home resident, who succumbed to her injuries after a fall in the nursing home, claimed adult abuse and that negligence caused a wrongful death. In its defense, the nursing home focused on the alleged abuse by a nurse on the staff. The statements challenged in the appeal included testimony made by six nursing home staff members that residents, other unnamed employees, and an Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals surveyor told them that the nurse in question had been physically rough with and swore at residents.
The employees testifying did not actually witness any such incidents. They were only testifying about someone else’s words (“hearsay”). 
The trial court admitted these statements, allegedly not for their truth, but in an attempt to show that abuse had been reported and there had not been any follow-up investigation. The appellate court stated that this was not a valid reason to admit inadmissible hearsay into evidence because the estate must prove that the conduct existed to prevent the jury from engaging in rampant speculation based on unreliable hearsay evidence.
People in today’s society, yes, even judges, often forget this basic principle of law. With all of the fabricated lies being put out as “news” on some news channels, Internet rumors running rampant, and politicians making egregiously false statements, it’s often hard to remember how to distinguish a fact from an unreliable rumor or hearsay.
This is one of the problems with hearsay. It is often just gossip and rumor, which change from person to person. Especially egregious conduct, criminal activity, and salacious acts become increasingly exaggerated with each retelling. The founding fathers in English and American law realized the inherently unreliable nature of such “evidence.”
Under the hearsay rule, the Court of Appeals agreed with the nursing home that the statements being challenged were inadmissible hearsay evidence that influenced the jury’s verdict. Due to this, the court reversed the verdict and remanded the case for a new trial. To read the court’s opinion in full, click here.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents health professionals and health facilities in civil and administrative litigation. We also represent physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, board hearings, inspections, and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.  We represent medical students, interns, resident physicians, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs.  We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters, and other disputes with their employers.  We often act as the physician’s personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.
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. Hartley Brooks is a law clerk with 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.
Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks 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.

Helpful Tips Healthcare Professionals Should Be Following for Professional Correspondence

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

I review many letters, e-mails, memoranda, and other types of correspondence prepared by my physician and nurse clients during my legal representation. These come to me often because of a dispute with a hospital, their peers, an insurance company, a lawsuit filed by a patient, a complaint being investigated by the licensing agency, an investigation of an incident, or another serious matter.

In many cases, way too many cases, such correspondence is unprofessional and defeats the purpose of the reason you are sending the correspondence. Sometimes the “letter” is so bad, that it will be disregarded by the reader to whom it was directed. I have seen this from doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, owners of health care businesses, and many, many other highly educated professionals who really should know better.

When I receive a “letter” that has no return address on it, no date on it is not addressed to a person or organization, has typographical errors and misspellings, does not have a paragraph, or is not signed, I cringe.

When such documents are dictated and transcribed by a professional medical transcriptionist, they are usually properly formatted and many of the errors I note below are avoided. However, when the health professional types (or word-processes) his or her own document or, worse yet, hand writes it, this is when I see the most errors.

To avoid these errors that make your correspondence and written communications look unprofessional, follow these tips.

Remember Why You Are Writing.

Remember, the basic purpose of your correspondence is to communicate ideas effectively. In many cases, it will be to invoke your legal rights in certain situations (such as an appeal or a hearing request). Sometimes, it will attempt to persuade your hospital, peers, or employer to take a certain action or refrain from a certain action. Remember that your correspondence is often the first impression that the other side will have of you. Do you want it to be an impression that you are sloppy, lazy, unprofessional, not knowledgeable, uneducated, or confused?

Whether you are communicating in a letter or via e-mail, these rules still hold true. In many (if not all) situations involving legal proceedings or legal issues, it is probably best to communicate via a letter sent by U.S. mail or some other reliable delivery service (e.g., Federal Express, Airborne Express, DHL, etc.). Even if you are transmitting your information via e-mail, it is my suggestion to prepare it in the form of a paper letter (if your e-mail is not set up to insert your letterhead and signature block automatically) and then scans it in and send it electronically.

I discourage legal communications via e-mail in serious matters because e-mails are often difficult to obtain, isolate, and authenticate when you need them for hearings. Additionally, they are rarely secure, often available to many others who shouldn’t see them, and easily susceptible to being accidentally sent to others who should not see them at all.

Horror Stories of Unprofessional Correspondence.

Why do I feel this article is necessary? Because of all the truly horrible correspondence I have seen written by allegedly highly educated professionals, mostly physicians and nurses. That’s why!

True “Horror Stories” About Unprofessional Correspondence

Here are just a few examples of true “horror stories” regarding unprofessional correspondence:

The physician never wrote a separate response to any charges or allegations made against him after receiving letters from the Medical Staff advising him he was under investigation. He would just hand write (scribble, actually) his remarks on the bottoms and in the margins of whatever document was sent to him and then send it back.

A nurse practitioner was required to respond to serious negligence charges, resulting in an adverse outcome for a patient. On unlined paper, she hand-wrote a response letter that was not addressed to anyone, not dated, not signed, and did not state who was sending it. There was no name or signature on it.

A physician was required to provide his analysis of a patient’s case for peer review purposes within the hospital. His typed letter of three full pages, single-spaced, contained one long paragraph. I used to work for a Medical Corps Admiral when I was a Navy JAG Corps officer. The Admiral, a very educated and proper professional, would just glance at such correspondence and state: “I can tell this doctor doesn’t have any idea what he is talking about.” Failing to follow good correspondence procedures will show others your thoughts lack organization and cohesion. A document that lacks organization reflects a mind that lacks organization.

A health professional was required to complete an application for clinical privileges. He wrote all of the answers by hand, not even staying within the lines on the form, writing over the questions printed on the form and around in the margins of the application. This is what he signed and turned in to the credentials committee at the hospital. Believe me, this did not look very professional.

A physician was requested to respond to a medical staff inquiry from the hospital. Her response came back typed (actually word-processed) in a type font that was 22 characters per inch (cpi), almost too small to read. Perhaps she was just trying to save a sheet of paper. But many of us would have had to pull out a magnifying glass or put on reading glasses in order to be able to read it. Once it is scanned or faxed and then photocopied or re-scanned and re-faxed several times, it will be completely illegible. If you are actually trying to communicate your ideas, make your correspondence easier to read, not harder to read. This is my cardinal rule.

A dentist was notified of a pending complaint investigation being opened against her dental license. She wrote her response to the charges back to the investigator, without using any business address or title, and began her response statement with “Dear Sharon,”. Do not treat others informally, especially in professional or formal situations. You will be deemed to be unprofessional when you do so. The investigator is not your friend, your sister, or your mommy. Do not address her by her first name. Do not end the salutation with a comma, like you would a love letter. End it with a colon like you would a professional business letter.

30 Tips for Good Professional Correspondence.

Here are some pointers on professional communications that should be followed in all of your professional written communications about business, professional or legal matters, even in e-mails. Please note, that the terms below in quotation marks have certain defined meanings. If you don’t know what these terms mean, look them up.

1. Always remember that the reason you are sending the correspondence is to attempt to effectively and accurately communicate your position and ideas. If you are trying to make your message indecipherable or difficult to understand, ignore these tips. If you are trying to come across as someone who doesn’t give a damn about how he or she is perceived, ignore these tips. If you want to come across as unprofessional, ignore these tips.

2. Make sure you include your complete and correct “return address” and contact information if you are not using your own letterhead. This includes your physical or mailing address, telephone number, telefax number and e-mail address, so that the other party knows exactly how to reach you. In cases where you already have this on your letterhead, be sure to use your letterhead (but only your own). Also, it appears more professional to create a letterhead with the information in it and to use your new letterhead instead of having a professional business letter with a typed “return address.” However, a typed “return address” is better than none.

3. Don’t use someone else’s letterhead. Don’t use your hospital, medical group or institutional letterhead for your own personal communications, unless you are the owner. Use your personal letterhead (see above), instead. If you are being accused of poor utilization review, unprofessional conduct, or personal use of hospital (or company) property, then using someone else’s letterhead just helps prove the charge against you.

4. Date your correspondence. Date your correspondence. Date your correspondence. Nothing shows a lack of professionalism and lack of attention to detail as sharply as undated correspondence. It will certainly be difficult to prove when your letter or document was sent if you do not have a date on it. A year or two later, it may be completely impossible to do so. In case I forgot to mention it, be sure to date your correspondence.

5. Use titles or honorifics. In the “business address” of your correspondence, always use the complete name of the person to whom you are writing (if known) together with that person’s honorific or professional title (e.g., Mr., Ms., Dr., Nurse, Prof., Dean, etc.) This shows both respect and professionalism.

6. Always use the complete mailing address, including the title, of the person to whom you are sending the letter. The business address of your correspondence includes not only the person’s name and honorifics but the title or position and division within the institution or organization to which you are sending it. In the case of large organizations, you should include the building and suite or room numbers and any internal routing codes, designations, “mail stops” or other organizational routing codes, that the agency or business you are writing requires to route its mail internally. Large organizations, especially government agencies and insurance companies, all have large mail rooms that sort and route all mail the organization receives from any source. Correct internal routing codes will help ensure that your correspondence gets to the correct person or official in a timely manner. Often today companies scan or have all e-mails saved by a clerk, as well

7. Always use a salutation. This is self-explanatory but see below.

8. In your “salutation,” always use the person’s last name with a title or honorific. It is customary to use the term “Dear” in a salutation in formal writing, so this is permitted. But you may leave it out. For example, “Dear Secretary Jones:” or “Secretary Jones:” or “Dear Dr. Johnson:” or “Dr. Johnson:”; all of these are correct. Never refer to the person by that person’s first name in any type of formal correspondence or correspondence that anyone else might read. Never say: “Dear Sue:” or “Sharon:”. Even if you know these people well enough to call them by their first names, don’t do it in this situation; it’s unprofessional and may be interpreted as “talking down” to the person.

9. Always end your “salutation” with a colon, not a comma. A comma is only used in informal communications to those you know well or socially, such as a letter to your mother or a note to your girlfriend. Unless this is your mother or your girlfriend to whom you are writing, use a colon. For example, “Dear Secretary Jones,” or “Dear Sue,” is incorrect. “Dear Secretary Jones:” or “Ms. Smith:” is correct.

10. Type (or word-process) your correspondence or have it typed (or word-processed) for you; this is one reason transcriptionists, secretaries and clerks have jobs. Do not send handwritten letters in formal or professional matters. Do not write on the other person’s correspondence or documents and send them back. Prepare and send a professional-looking letter or e-mail, even if you must pay someone to type it for you (and if you are sending an e-mail, I know you can type a little bit yourself, anyway). To do otherwise is to show laziness, disrespect and unprofessionalism.

11. Always use a type font in your correspondence (including e-mails) of at least 12 points (10 characters per inch). Do not use small, difficult-to-read type fonts, for example, the size of the type font that most e-mail software defaults to. Smaller type fonts than 12 points become difficult to read, especially if scanned/rescanned, faxed/refaxed, or copied/recopied. Change the default font in your e-mail software or computer word processing software, if necessary. You can do this, regardless of how difficult it may seem at first; I know you can do it because I can do it. Make your professional correspondence easier to read, not more difficult to read.

12. Never use unprofessional-looking type fonts for your communications. Stay away from script-type fonts, italics, or novelty-type fonts. These are notoriously more difficult to read and look unprofessional. You are not publishing a flyer for a high school bake sale. Times New Roman, CG Times, and similar type fonts are more professional looking and easier for a person to read. Use Courier or Letter Gothic type fonts if necessary.

13. Keep the correspondence to which you are responding unmarked. One reason to not write on or mark up the other person’s documents or correspondence is that you may need them as evidence in a court of law or a hearing someday. Nothing looks less professional than a document you are trying to use as evidence when a different person has made handwritten marks all over it. The impression is similar to one in which a child with a box of crayons has gotten to it. You don’t want this or need this. Show respect and self-control. Keep the other side’s documents pristine. They will look much better that way as your “Exhibit 1” in the court hearing.

14. Use a good concise, descriptive reference line or subject line (often called the “re:” line). Make it a very brief summary. State what the content of your letter is actually about. State if you are responding to a letter or document that you received from the “addressee” (the person to whom you are addressing your correspondence) of your letter.

15. Include the recipient’s routing information. If the intended receiver of your letter or correspondence (the “addressee”) included reference numbers, file numbers, account numbers, case name and numbers, a policy number, an investigation number, a routing number, or other similar information on its letter to you, repeat these back in the reference line of your correspondence. This will help make sure that your correspondence gets routed to the correct file and recipient more timely. This is especially crucial in large organizations and government agencies.

16. The contents of the body of your correspondence should be easy to read and easy to understand. To this end, be sure to use short sentences and short paragraphs. Each paragraph should convey one idea. Use headers and section titles, if necessary, to organize your correspondence, especially if it is lengthy. Remember, headings within your letter that help to organize it are like street signs in a busy city. They will really help any subsequent reader (and this may be a judge, a jury or a Board of Mediciney) to navigate his, her or its way through your letter.

17. Be sure to skip a line between each paragraph and, preferably, indent the first line of each paragraph. [Note: Some writers will tell you not to indent the first line of each paragraph in professional correspondence; however, I feel that this makes the correspondence more difficult to read, so I encourage indenting or tabbing in on the first line of each paragraph.] This makes it easier on the reader and more likely that your ideas will not get lost in a crowd of words.

18. Keep your paragraphs short and to the point. Nothing turns readers off as much as a single lengthy paragraph written from margin to margin taking up the whole page. I suppose some people may have never been taught what paragraphs are. However, I am willing to bet that most were. These rare used even in foreign countries.

19. In longer correspondence, use section headings (in bold or underlined) or headings for each issue, to better organize it. Think of these as road signs on a long road. They help the reader to know where he or she is at any given time, and where he or she is going.

20. When using headers, skip two lines before the header and one line after the header. This helps to set off the new section and header and show a definite division.

21. Keep your language objective and professional. Do not ever use profanity [Oops, I just went back and removed the word “damn” I used above.] Do not ever use any comments even remotely resembling racism, sexism, or antisemitism or prejudice. Do not be sarcastic.

22. Be direct and concise in your language. To the greatest extent possible, use the same terminology and wording that the other party uses, or has used, or the wording used in whatever statutes, regulations, policies, procedures, instructions, or governing documents with which you are dealing (but also, be sure you know what the words and terms mean).

23. If you intend to request a formal hearing say “I request a formal hearing.” If you want a full refund, state: “I request a full refund.” If you want to appeal the decision, state: “I want to appeal the decision.” Don’t be wishy-washy or vague. For example, don’t say, “I am looking for an attorney to file an appeal for me,” when what you mean to say is “I appeal the decision” or “I request an appeal.” Say precisely what you want. Don’t be vague or leave the reader guessing.

24. If there are any deadlines by which you must respond, be aware of these and make sure your response is received by that date. Remember “received” means “actually received” by the correct person (or office) at the correct address. It does not mean “mailed by” or “postmarked by.” If you have correspondence or a document to which a response must be received by a ceratin date, you need to make sure it is actually in the receiving person’s hands by that date, even if you must hand carry it to that person. I will usually send important documents by two different methods, in case the mail man dies, the courier service’s plan crashes or the e-mail server goes down.

25. In closing your correspondence conclude by stating what action is next, whether this is action you intend to take, or action you are requesting the other party to take. For example: “I expect to hear from you within ten days as to whether you grant my request or not.” “Please contact me with hearing dates within the next fourteen days.” “I will forward you a refund within five days.” “I will send you my records within five days.”

26. Always advise the other party of exactly how they should contact you; provide multiple means of contacting you. If you are very busy or have an assistant who is authorized to act for you, provide that person’s name and contact information to use as an alternate, as well. Then be available to receive the return communication(s). Don’t give telephone numbers you never answer. Don’t provide an incorrect address (e-mail or physical).

27. In dealing with dates and deadlines, remember that ten days is ten days; fourteen days is fourteen days, twenty-one days is twenty-one days. Made up rules such as “weekends and holidays don’t count” are just that, made up (outside of formal court proceedings). If the other party has given you “fourteen days to respond,” this means fourteen days from the date on the letter, unless specifically stated otherwise. Fourteen days means fourteen days, unless it is specifically stated otherwise (e.g., “you have fourteen business days to reply”).

28. Include a professional closing above your signature. This should be “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” “Respectfully,” “Respectfully submitted,” or some other professional closing. Do not conclude with “Love,” or “Very truly yours,” despite the tradition.

29. In your signature block, include your full typed name, with credentials and title or position listed. For example, your full name, followed by your degree and other credentials (e.g., “John J. Smith, M.D., F.A.A.C.P.”) should be on the line immediately below where you sign. Next should be listed your position within your organization (if applicable) (e.g., “Chair, Pediatrics Department”).

30. If you have enclosures, list them at the end of the correspondence, giving a brief or shortened description and numbering them (this is slightly different from military correspondence). List and number them in the order you discuss them in your correspondence. Be sure they are properly organized, labeled, and divided, especially if any are lengthy.

Following these simple rules, most people learn in middle school will help to keep your correspondence professional looking and in conformity with what most professionals see on a daily basis. If your correspondence is professional-looking, people will be more likely to think you are a professional and to treat you professionally.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Iowa Appellate Court Reverses $6 Million Nursing Home Negligence Decision Because of Hearsay Testimony

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 June 21, 2023, the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned the verdict in a nursing home negligence case that awarded $6 million in compensation and damages to the plaintiff. The case was reversed and remanded for a new trial because the trial court judge admitted inadmissible hearsay testimony into evidence. The testimony being appealed was that of staff members who claimed to have heard “reports” and “rumors” of alleged abuse by a nurse on staff toward not only the resident in question but other residents.
Hearsay in Iowa law is defined as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Click here to read the Iowa Rules of Evidence concerning hearsay. This is the same definition used by the federal and most other courts.
Essentially, hearsay is when someone repeats something they heard from another person and presents it as if they know it to be true. Hearsay is often equated to rumor. Hearsay is not admissible due to the nature of speculation required in making such a statement, the fact that such statements are inherently unreliable and that the actual witness is not in court to answer questions about it. Thus there is no way for a party or the judge to test the credibility of the actual witness or determine facts that may have influenced the observation and statement.
Hearsay is considered unreliable because the person who knows what happened (who saw what happened or heard what happened) is not to be questioned about it. Therefore, there is no way to know what really happened for sure.
Details of the Case. 
In this case, the estate of the former nursing home resident, who succumbed to her injuries after a fall in the nursing home, claimed adult abuse and that negligence caused a wrongful death. In its defense, the nursing home focused on the alleged abuse by a nurse on the staff. The statements challenged in the appeal included testimony made by six nursing home staff members that residents, other unnamed employees, and an Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals surveyor told them that the nurse in question had been physically rough with and swore at residents.
The employees testifying did not actually witness any such incidents. They were only testifying about someone else’s words (“hearsay”). 
The trial court admitted these statements, allegedly not for their truth, but in an attempt to show that abuse had been reported and there had not been any follow-up investigation. The appellate court stated that this was not a valid reason to admit inadmissible hearsay into evidence because the estate must prove that the conduct existed to prevent the jury from engaging in rampant speculation based on unreliable hearsay evidence.
People in today’s society, yes, even judges, often forget this basic principle of law. With all of the fabricated lies being put out as “news” on some news channels, Internet rumors running rampant, and politicians making egregiously false statements, it’s often hard to remember how to distinguish a fact from an unreliable rumor or hearsay.
This is one of the problems with hearsay. It is often just gossip and rumor, which change from person to person. Especially egregious conduct, criminal activity, and salacious acts become increasingly exaggerated with each retelling. The founding fathers in English and American law realized the inherently unreliable nature of such “evidence.”
Under the hearsay rule, the Court of Appeals agreed with the nursing home that the statements being challenged were inadmissible hearsay evidence that influenced the jury’s verdict. Due to this, the court reversed the verdict and remanded the case for a new trial. To read the court’s opinion in full, click here.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents health professionals and health facilities in civil and administrative litigation. We also represent physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, board hearings, inspections, and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.  We represent medical students, interns, resident physicians, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs.  We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters, and other disputes with their employers.  We often act as the physician’s personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.
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. 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 always seeks 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.

Iowa Appellate Court Reverses $6 Million Nursing Home Negligence Decision Because of Hearsay Testimony

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 June 21, 2023, the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned the verdict in a nursing home negligence case that awarded $6 million in compensation and damages to the plaintiff. The case was reversed and remanded for a new trial because the trial court judge admitted inadmissible hearsay testimony into evidence. The testimony being appealed was that of staff members who claimed to have heard “reports” and “rumors” of alleged abuse by a nurse on staff toward not only the resident in question but other residents.
Hearsay in Iowa law is defined as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Click here to read the Iowa Rules of Evidence concerning hearsay. This is the same definition used by the federal and most other courts.
Essentially, hearsay is when someone repeats something they heard from another person and presents it as if they know it to be true. Hearsay is often equated to rumor. Hearsay is not admissible due to the nature of speculation required in making such a statement, the fact that such statements are inherently unreliable and that the actual witness is not in court to answer questions about it. Thus there is no way for a party or the judge to test the credibility of the actual witness or determine facts that may have influenced the observation and statement.
Hearsay is considered unreliable because the person who knows what happened (who saw what happened or heard what happened) is not to be questioned about it. Therefore, there is no way to know what really happened for sure.
Details of the Case. 
In this case, the estate of the former nursing home resident, who succumbed to her injuries after a fall in the nursing home, claimed adult abuse and that negligence caused a wrongful death. In its defense, the nursing home focused on the alleged abuse by a nurse on the staff. The statements challenged in the appeal included testimony made by six nursing home staff members that residents, other unnamed employees, and an Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals surveyor told them that the nurse in question had been physically rough with and swore at residents.
The employees testifying did not actually witness any such incidents. They were only testifying about someone else’s words (“hearsay”). 
The trial court admitted these statements, allegedly not for their truth, but in an attempt to show that abuse had been reported and there had not been any follow-up investigation. The appellate court stated that this was not a valid reason to admit inadmissible hearsay into evidence because the estate must prove that the conduct existed to prevent the jury from engaging in rampant speculation based on unreliable hearsay evidence.
People in today’s society, yes, even judges, often forget this basic principle of law. With all of the fabricated lies being put out as “news” on some news channels, Internet rumors running rampant, and politicians making egregiously false statements, it’s often hard to remember how to distinguish a fact from an unreliable rumor or hearsay.
This is one of the problems with hearsay. It is often just gossip and rumor, which change from person to person. Especially egregious conduct, criminal activity, and salacious acts become increasingly exaggerated with each retelling. The founding fathers in English and American law realized the inherently unreliable nature of such “evidence.”
Under the hearsay rule, the Court of Appeals agreed with the nursing home that the statements being challenged were inadmissible hearsay evidence that influenced the jury’s verdict. Due to this, the court reversed the verdict and remanded the case for a new trial. To read the court’s opinion in full, click here.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents health professionals and health facilities in civil and administrative litigation. We also represent physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, board hearings, inspections, and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.  We represent medical students, interns, resident physicians, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs.  We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters, and other disputes with their employers.  We often act as the physician’s personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.
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. 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 always seeks 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.

Iowa Appellate Court Reverses $6 Million Nursing Home Negligence Decision Because of Hearsay Testimony

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 June 21, 2023, the Court of Appeals of Iowa overturned the verdict in a nursing home negligence case that awarded $6 million in compensation and damages to the plaintiff. The case was reversed and remanded for a new trial because inadmissible hearsay testimony was admitted into evidence by the trial court judge. The testimony being appealed was that of staff members who claimed to have heard “reports” and “rumors” of alleged abuse by a nurse on staff toward, not only the resident in question but other residents as well.

Hearsay in Iowa law is defined as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Click here to read the Iowa Rules of Evidence concerning hearsay.  This is the same definition used by the federal courts and most other courts.

Essentially, hearsay is when someone repeats something they heard from another person and presents it as if they know it to be true. Hearsay is often equated to rumor. Hearsay is not admissible due to the nature of speculation required in making such a statement, the fact that such statements are inherently unreliable, and the fact that the actual witness is not in court to answer questions about it. Thus there is no way for a party or the judge to test the credibility of the actual witness or determine facts that may have influenced the observation and statement.

Hearsay is considered unreliable because the person who actually knows what happened (who saw what happened or heard what happened) is not present to be questioned about it. Therefore, there is no way to know what really happened for sure.

Details of the Case. 

In this case, the estate of the former nursing home resident, who succumbed to her injuries after a fall in the nursing home claimed adult abuse and that negligence caused a wrongful death. In its defense, the nursing home focused on the alleged abuse by a nurse on the staff. The statements that were challenged in the appeal included testimony made by six members of the nursing home staff that residents, other unnamed employees, and an Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals surveyor told them that the nurse in question had been physically rough with and swore at residents.

The employees testifying did not actually witness any such incidents. They were only testifying as to what they had heard someone else say (“hearsay”).

The trial court admitted these statements, allegedly not for their truth, but in an attempt to show that abuse had been reported and there had not been any follow-up investigation. The appellate court stated that this was not a valid reason to admit inadmissible hearsay into evidence because the estate must show clear proof that the conduct existed in order to prevent the jury from engaging in rampant speculation based on unreliable hearsay evidence.

People in today’s society, yes, even judges, often forget this basic principle of law. With all of the completely fabricated lies being put out as “news” on some news channels, with Internet rumors running rampant, and with politicians making egregiously false statements, it’s often hard to remember how to distinguish a fact from unreliable rumor or hearsay.

This is one of the problems with hearsay. It is often just gossip and rumor which change from person to person. Especially egregious conduct, criminal activity, and salacious acts become more and more exaggerated with each retelling. The founding fathers in English and American law realized the inherently unreliable nature of such “evidence.”

Under the hearsay rule, the Court of Appeals agreed with the nursing home that the statements being challenged were inadmissible hearsay evidence that influenced the jury’s verdict. Due to this, the court reversed the verdict and remanded the case for a new trial. To read the court’s opinion in full, click here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents health professionals and health facilities in civil and administrative litigation. We also represent physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, board hearings, inspections, and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.  We represent medical students, interns, resident physicians, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs.  We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters, and other disputes with their employers.  We often act as the physician’s personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.
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: 

Kang, Y. Peter. “Iowa Court Overturns $6M Nursing Home Negligence Verdict.” Law360. (June 22, 2023). https://www.law360.com/health/articles/1691891?nl_pk=0cbd4c0b-c6c8-416a-9e67-b4affa63b102&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=health&utm_content=2023-06-23&nlsidx=0&nlaidx=9

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.

Iowa Appellate Court Reverses $6 Million Nursing Home Negligence Decision Because of Hearsay Testimony

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 June 21, 2023, the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned the verdict in a nursing home negligence case that awarded $6 million in compensation and damages to the plaintiff. The case was reversed and remanded for a new trial because the trial court judge admitted inadmissible hearsay testimony into evidence. The testimony being appealed was that of staff members who claimed to have heard “reports” and “rumors” of alleged abuse by a nurse on staff toward not only the resident in question but other residents.
Hearsay in Iowa law is defined as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Click here to read the Iowa Rules of Evidence concerning hearsay. This is the same definition used by the federal and most other courts.
Essentially, hearsay is when someone repeats something they heard from another person and presents it as if they know it to be true. Hearsay is often equated to rumor. Hearsay is not admissible due to the nature of speculation required in making such a statement, the fact that such statements are inherently unreliable and that the actual witness is not in court to answer questions about it. Thus there is no way for a party or the judge to test the credibility of the actual witness or determine facts that may have influenced the observation and statement.
Hearsay is considered unreliable because the person who knows what happened (who saw what happened or heard what happened) is not to be questioned about it. Therefore, there is no way to know what really happened for sure.
Details of the Case. 
In this case, the estate of the former nursing home resident, who succumbed to her injuries after a fall in the nursing home, claimed adult abuse and that negligence caused a wrongful death. In its defense, the nursing home focused on the alleged abuse by a nurse on the staff. The statements that were challenged in the appeal included testimony made by six nursing home staff members that residents, other unnamed employees, and an Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals surveyor told them that the nurse in question had been physically rough with and swore at residents.
The employees testifying did not actually witness any such incidents. They were only testifying about what someone else said (“hearsay”). 
The trial court admitted these statements, allegedly not for their truth, but in an attempt to show that abuse had been reported and there had not been any follow-up investigation. The appellate court stated that this was not a valid reason to admit inadmissible hearsay into evidence because the estate must prove that the conduct existed to prevent the jury from engaging in rampant speculation based on unreliable hearsay evidence.
People in today’s society, yes, even judges, often forget this basic principle of law. With all of the completely fabricated lies being put out as “news” on some news channels, Internet rumors running rampant, and politicians making egregiously false statements, it’s often hard to remember how to distinguish a fact from an unreliable rumor or hearsay.
This is one of the problems with hearsay. It is often just gossip and rumor, which change from person to person. Especially egregious conduct, criminal activity, and salacious acts become increasingly exaggerated with each retelling. The founding fathers in English and American law realized the inherently unreliable nature of such “evidence.”
Under the hearsay rule, the Court of Appeals agreed with the nursing home that the statements being challenged were inadmissible hearsay evidence that influenced the jury’s verdict. Due to this, the court reversed the verdict and remanded the case for a new trial. To read the court’s opinion in full, click here.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents health professionals and health facilities in civil and administrative litigation. We also represent physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, board hearings, inspections, and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.  We represent medical students, interns, resident physicians, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs.  We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters, and other disputes with their employers.  We often act as the physician’s personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.
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. 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 always seeks 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.

Doctors & Nurses: Follow These 30 Tips for Professional Correspondence

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

I review many letters, e-mails, memoranda, and other types of correspondence prepared by my physician and nurse clients during my legal representation. These come to me often because of a dispute with a hospital, their peers, an insurance company, a lawsuit filed by a patient, a complaint being investigated by the licensing agency, an investigation of an incident, or another serious matter.

In many cases, way too many cases, such correspondence is unprofessional and defeats the purpose of the reason you are sending the correspondence.  Sometimes the “letter” is so bad, it will be disregarded by the reader to whom it was directed.  I have seen this from doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, owners of health care businesses, and many, many other highly educated professionals who really should know better.

When I receive a “letter” that has no return address on it, no date on it, is not addressed to a person or organization, has typographical errors and misspellings, does not have paragraphing, or which is not signed, I cringe.

When such documents are dictated and transcribed by a professional medical transcriptionist, they are usually properly formatted and many of the errors I note below are avoided.  However, when the health professional types (or word-processes) his or her own document or, worse yet, hand writes it, this is when I see the most errors.

To avoid these errors that make your correspondence and written communications look unprofessional, follow these tips.


Remember Why You Are Writing.

Remember, the basic purpose of your correspondence is to communicate ideas effectively. In many cases, it will be to invoke your legal rights in certain situations (such as an appeal or a hearing request). Sometimes, it will attempt to persuade your hospital, peers, or employer to take a certain action or refrain from a certain action. Remember that your correspondence is often the first impression that the other side will have of you. Do you want it to be an impression that you are sloppy, lazy, unprofessional, not knowledgeable, uneducated, or confused?

Whether you are communicating in a letter or via e-mail, these rules still hold true.  In many (if not all) situations involving legal proceedings or legal issues, it is probably best to communicate via a letter sent by U.S. mail or some other reliable delivery service (e.g., Federal Express, Airborne Express, DHL, etc.).  Even if you are transmitting your information via an e-mail, it is my suggestion to prepare it in the form of a paper letter (if your e-mail is not set up to insert your letterhead and signature block automatically) and then scan it in and send it electronically.

I discourage legal communications via e-mail in serious matters because e-mails are often difficult to obtain, isolate, and authenticate when you need them for hearings.  Additionally, they are rarely secure, often available to many others who shouldn’t see them, and easily susceptible to being accidentally sent to others who should not see them at all.

Horror Stories of Unprofessional Correspondence.

Why do I feel this article is necessary?  Because of all the truly horrible correspondence I have seen written by allegedly highly educated professionals, mostly physicians and nurses.  That’s why!

True “Horror Stories” About Unprofessional Correspondence.

Here are just a few examples of true “horror stories” regarding unprofessional correspondence:

The physician never wrote a separate response to any charges or allegations made against him after receiving letters from the Medical Staff advising him he was under investigation.  He would just handwrite (scribble, actually) his remarks on the bottoms and in the margins of whatever document was sent to him and then send it back.

A nurse practitioner was required to respond to serious negligence charges, resulting in an adverse outcome to a patient. On unlined paper, she hand wrote a response letter that was not addressed to anyone, not dated, not signed, and did not state who was sending it. There was no name or signature on it.

A physician was required to provide his analysis of a patient’s case for peer review purposes within the hospital.  His typed letter of three full pages, single-spaced, contained one long paragraph.  I used to work for a Medical Corps Admiral when I was a Navy JAG Corps officer.  The Admiral, a very educated and proper professional, would just glance at such correspondence and state:  “I can tell this doctor doesn’t have any idea what he is talking about.”  Failing to follow good correspondence procedures will show others your thoughts lack organization and cohesion.  A document that lacks organization reflects a mind that lacks organization.

A health professional was required to complete an application for clinical privileges.  He wrote all of the answers by hand, not even staying within the lines on the form, writing over the questions printed on the form and around in the margins of the application.  This is what he signed and turned in to the credentials committee at the hospital.  Believe me, this did not look very professional.

A physician was requested to respond to a medical staff inquiry from the hospital.  Her response came back typed (actually word-processed) in a type font that was 22 characters per inch (cpi), almost too small to read.  Perhaps she was just trying to save a sheet of paper.  But many of us would have had to pull out a magnifying glass or put on reading glasses in order to be able to read it.  Once it is scanned or faxed and then photocopies or re-scanned and re-faxed several times, it will be completely illegible.  If you are actually trying to communicate your ideas, make your correspondence easier to read, not harder to read.  This is my cardinal rule.

A dentist was notified of a pending complaint investigation being opened against her dental license.  She wrote her response to the charges back to the investigator, without using any business address or title, and began her response statement “Dear Sharon,”.  Do not treat others informally, especially in professional or formal situations.  You will be deemed to be unprofessional when you do so.  The investigator is not your friend, your sister, or your mommy.  Do not address her by her first name. Do not end the salutation with a comma, like you would a love letter.  End it with a colon like you would a professional business letter.


30 Tips for Good Professional Correspondence.

Here are some pointers on professional communications that should be followed in all of your professional written communications about business, professional or legal matters, even in e-mails. Please note, the terms below in quotation marks have certain defined meanings.  If you don’t know what these terms mean, look them up.

1.  Always remember that the reason you are sending the correspondence is to attempt to effectively and accurately communicate your position and ideas.  If you are trying to make your message indecipherable or difficult to understand, ignore these tips.  If you are trying to come across as someone who doesn’t give a damn about how he or she is perceived, ignore these tips.  If you want to come across as unprofessional, ignore these tips.

2.  Make sure you include your complete and correct “return address” and contact information, if you are not using your own letterhead.  This includes your physical or mailing address, telephone number, telefax number and e-mail address, so that the other party knows exactly how to reach you.  In cases where you already have this on your letterhead, be sure to use your letterhead (but only your own).  Also, it appears more professional to create a letterhead with the information in it and to use your new letterhead instead of having a professional business letter with a typed “return address.”  However, a typed “return address” is better than none.

3.  Don’t use someone else’s letterhead.  Don’t use your hospital, medical group or institutional letterhead for your own personal communications, unless you are the owner.  Use your personal letterhead (see above), instead.  If you are being accused of poor utilization review, unprofessional conduct, or personal use of hospital (or company) property, then using someone else’s letterhead just helps prove the charge against you.

4.  Date your correspondence.  Date your correspondence.  Date your correspondence.  Nothing shows a lack of professionalism and lack of attention to detail as sharply as undated correspondence.  It will certainly be difficult to prove when your letter or document was sent if you do not have a date on it.  A year or two later, it may be completely impossible to do so.  In case I forgot to mention it, be sure to date your correspondence.

5.  Use titles or honorifics.  In the “business address” of your correspondence, always use the complete name of the person to whom you are writing (if known) together with that person’s honorific or professional title (e.g., Mr., Ms., Dr., Nurse, Prof., Dean, etc.)  This shows both respect and professionalism.

6.  Always use the complete mailing address, including title, of the person to whom you are sending the letter.  In the business address of your correspondence include not only the person’s name and honorifics, but title or position and division within the institution or organization to which you are sending it.  In the case of large organizations, you should include the building and suite or room numbers and any internal routing codes, designations, “mail stops” or other organizational routing codes, that the agency or business you are writing requires to route its mail internally.  Large organizations, especially government agencies and insurance companies, all have large mail rooms which sort and route all mail the organization receives from any source.  Correct internal routing codes will help ensure that your correspondence gets to the correct person or official in a timely manner.  Often today companies scan or have all e-mails saved by a clerk, as well

7.  Always use a salutation.  This is self-explanatory, but see below.

8.  In your “salutation,” always use the person’s last name with a title or honorific.  It is customary to use the term “Dear” in a salutation in formal writing, so this is permitted.  But you may leave it out.  For example, “Dear Secretary Jones:” or “Secretary Jones:” or “Dear Dr. Johnson:” or “Dr. Johnson:”;  all of these are correct.  Never refer to the person by that person’s first name in any type of formal correspondence or correspondence that anyone else might read.  Never say:  “Dear Sue:” or “Sharon:”.  Even if you know these people well enough to call them by their first names, don’t do it in this situation;  it’s unprofessional and may be interpreted as “talking down” to the person.

9.  Always end your “salutation” with a colon, not a comma.  A comma is only used in informal communications to those you know well or socially, such as a letter to your mother or a note to your girlfriend.  Unless this is your mother or your girlfriend to whom you are writing, use a colon.  For example, “Dear Secretary Jones,” or “Dear Sue,” is incorrect.  “Dear Secretary Jones:” or “Ms. Smith:” is correct.

10.  Type (or word-process) your correspondence or have it typed (or word-processed) for you;  this is one reason transcriptionists, secretaries and clerks have jobs.  Do not send handwritten letters in formal or professional matters.  Do not write on the other person’s correspondence or documents and send them back.  Prepare and send a professional looking letter or e-mail, even if you must pay someone to type it for you (and if you are sending an e-mail, I know you can type a little bit yourself, anyway).  To do otherwise is to show laziness, disrespect and unprofessionalism.

11.  Always use a type font in your correspondence (including e-mails) of at least 12 points (10 characters per inch).  Do not use a small, difficult to read type fonts, for example, the size of the type font that most e-mail software defaults to.  Smaller type fonts than 12 points become difficult to read, especially if scanned/rescanned, faxed/refaxed or copied/recopied.  Change the default font in your e-mail software or computer word processing software, if necessary.  You can do this, regardless of how difficult it may seem at first;  I know you can do it, because I can do it.  Make your professional correspondence easier to read, not more difficult to read.

12.  Never use unprofessional looking type fonts for your communications.  Stay away from script type fonts, italics or novelty type fonts.  These are notoriously more difficult to read and look unprofessional.  You are not publishing a flyer for a high school bake sale.  Times New Roman, CG Times, and similar type fonts are more professional looking and easier for a person to read.  Use Courier or Letter Gothic type fonts if necessary.

13.  Keep the correspondence to which you are responding unmarked.  One reason to not write on or mark up the other person’s documents or correspondence is that you may need them as evidence in a court of law or a hearing some day.  Nothing looks less professional than a document you are trying to use as evidence when a different person has made handwritten marks all over it.  The impression is similar to one in which a child with a box of crayons has gotten to it.  You don’t want this or need this.  Show respect and self-control.  Keep the other side’s documents pristine.  They will look much better that way as your “Exhibit 1” in the court hearing.

14.  Use a good concise, descriptive reference line or subject line (often called the “re:” line).  Make it a very brief summary.  State what the content of your letter is actually about.  State if you are responding to a letter or document that you received from the “addressee” (the person to whom you are addressing your correspondence) of your letter.

15.  Include the recipient’s routing information.  If the intended receiver of your letter or correspondence (the “addressee”) included reference numbers, file numbers, account numbers, case name and numbers, a policy number, an investigation number, a routing number, or other similar information on its letter to you, repeat these back in the reference line of your correspondence.  This will help make sure that your correspondence gets routed to the correct file and recipient more timely.  This is especially crucial in large organizations and government agencies.

16.  The contents of the body of your correspondence should be easy to read and easy to understand.  To this end, be sure to use short sentences and short paragraphs.  Each paragraph should convey one idea.  Use headers and section titles, if necessary, to organize your correspondence, especially if it is lengthy.  Remember, headings within your letter that help to organize it are like street signs in a busy city.  They will really help any subsequent reader (and this may be a judge, a jury or a Board of Mediciney) to navigate his, her or its way through your letter.

17.  Be sure to skip a line between each paragraph and, preferably, indent the first line of each paragraph.  [Note:  Some writers will tell you not to indent the first line of each paragraph in professional correspondence;  however, I feel that this makes the correspondence more difficult to read, so I encourage indenting or tabbing in on the first line of each paragraph.]  This makes it easier on the reader and more likely that your ideas will not get lost in a crowd of words.

18.  Keep your paragraphs short and to the point.  Nothing turns readers off as much as a single lengthy paragraph written from margin to margin taking up the whole page.  I suppose some people may have never been taught what paragraphs are.  However, I am willing to bet that most were.  These rare used even in foreign countries.

19.  In longer correspondence, use section headings (in bold or underlined) or headings for each issue, to better organize it.  Think of these as road signs on a long road.  They help the reader to know where he or she is at any given time, and where he or she is going.

20.  When using headers, skip two lines before the header and one line after the header. This helps to set off the new section and header and show a definite division.

21.  Keep your language objective and professional.  Do not ever use profanity [Oops, I just went back and removed the word “damn” I used above.]  Do not ever use any comments even remotely resembling racism, sexism, or antisemitism or prejudice.  Do not be sarcastic.

22.  Be direct and concise in your language.  To the greatest extent possible, use the same terminology and wording that the other party uses, or has used, or the wording used in whatever statutes, regulations, policies, procedures, instructions, or governing documents with which you are dealing (but also, be sure you know what the words and terms mean).

23.  If you intend to request a formal hearing say “I request a formal hearing.”  If you want a full refund, state:  “I request a full refund.”  If you want to appeal the decision, state:  “I want to appeal the decision.”  Don’t be wishy-washy or vague.  For example, don’t say, “I am looking for an attorney to file an appeal for me,” when what you mean to say is “I appeal the decision” or “I request an appeal.”  Say precisely what you want.  Don’t be vague or leave the reader guessing.

24.  If there are any deadlines by which you must respond, be aware of these and make sure your response is received by that date.  Remember “received” means “actually received” by the correct person (or office) at the correct address.  It does not mean “mailed by” or “postmarked by.”  If you have correspondence or a document to which a response must be received by a ceratin date, you need to make sure it is actually in the receiving person’s hands by that date, even if you must hand carry it to that person.  I will usually send important documents by two different methods, in case the mail man dies, the courier service’s plan crashes or the e-mail server goes down.

25.  In closing your correspondence conclude by stating what action is next, whether this is action you intend to take, or action you are requesting the other party to take.  For example:  “I expect to hear from you within ten days as to whether you grant my request or not.”  “Please contact me with hearing dates within the next fourteen days.”  “I will forward you a refund within five days.”  “I will send you my records within five days.”

26.  Always advise the other party of exactly how they should contact you;  provide multiple means of contacting you.  If you are very busy or have an assistant who is authorized to act for you, provide that person’s name and contact information to use as an alternate, as well.  Then be available to receive the return communication(s).  Don’t give telephone numbers you never answer.  Don’t provide an incorrect address (e-mail or physical).

27.  In dealing with dates and deadlines, remember that ten days is ten days;  fourteen days is fourteen days, twenty-one days is twenty-one days.  Made up rules such as “weekends and holidays don’t count” are just that, made up (outside of formal court proceedings).  If the other party has given you “fourteen days to respond,” this means fourteen days from the date on the letter, unless specifically stated otherwise.  Fourteen days means fourteen days, unless it is specifically stated otherwise (e.g., “you have fourteen business days to reply”).

28.  Include a professional closing above your signature.  This should be “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” “Respectfully,” “Respectfully submitted,” or some other professional closing.  Do not conclude with “Love,” or “Very truly yours,” despite the tradition.

29.  In your signature block, include your full typed name, with credentials and title or position listed.  For example, your full name, followed by your degree and other credentials (e.g.,  “John J. Smith, M.D., F.A.A.C.P.”) should be on the line immediately below where you sign.  Next should be listed your position within your organization (if applicable) (e.g., “Chair, Pediatrics Department”).

30.  If you have enclosures, list them at the end of the correspondence, giving a brief or shortened description and numbering them (this is slightly different from military correspondence).  List and number them in the order you discuss them in your correspondence.  Be sure they are properly organized, labeled and divided, especially if any are lengthy.

Following these simple rules, most people learn in middle school will help to keep your correspondence professional looking and in conformity with what most professionals see on a daily basis.  If your correspondence is professional-looking, people will be more likely to think you are a professional and to treat you professionally.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Healthcare Professionals.

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

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (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., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

KeyWords:  representation for Professional correspondence, The Health Law Firm, legal representation for health care physicians, health care professional representation, defense lawyer for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, tips for professional correspondence, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, representation for professional letters, healthcare professional letter representation, representation for correspondence for doctors and nurses, professional correspondence for legal dispute, Florida health law attorney, legal representation for nurses, nurse defense lawyer, physician defense lawyer, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“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.

Take this Quick and Easy Quiz to See If You Might Be a “Disruptive Physician”

Headshot of The Health Law Firm's attorney George F. Indest IIIBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
I often have consultations with and represent physicians from across the country who are in trouble with their hospital medical staff or their licensing board because a complaint has been filed against them alleging they are a “disruptive physician.” This is often the result of an alienated member of the nursing staff or even an economic competitor trying to make trouble for or get rid of the physician.

A disruptive physician is one whose “obnoxious” behavior upsets patients or other staff members. The American Medical Association defines this in its Code of Medical Ethics as “personal conduct, whether verbal or physical, that negatively affects or that potentially may affect patient care.” This type of behavior is disfavored in hospitals and health systems because it is thought to negatively affect patient care by decreasing morale, teamwork, collaboration and communication among health professionals.

The Joint Commission Gets Involved.

Starting in 2008 the Joint Commission began urging hospitals to incorporate provisions to rein in disruptive behavior in the hospitals by physicians. The Joint Commission started requiring hospitals in 2009 to have a written code of conduct addressing the issue. This code of conduct must define acceptable, disruptive, and unacceptable behavior in the workplace, the latter two of which are usually lumped together.

Take This Quiz to See if You Are a “Disruptive Physician.”

Having represented physicians in hearings before medical staff peer review committees, resident physicians before academic conduct committees and appeal review committees, and physicians in hearings before the board of medicine, I have put together the following quiz from the types of misconduct such bodies use to denote a “disruptive physician.”

DISRUPTIVE PHYSICIAN QUIZ

Check “Yes” or “No” for each statement or question. Each “Yes” answer counts for one (1) point.

 

Add up all your “yes” answers above and see where you fall on the following chart:

SCORE
0 to 1 You are not a disruptive physician. You may be dead, however.
2 to 32 You may be a disruptive physician.

Although the quiz above is tongue-in-cheek, all of the questions or statements on it come from actual cases where a physician had to defend himself or herself against charges that they were a “disruptive physician.”

Legal Defenses To Disruptive Physician Charges.

Allegations against a physician for “disruptive behavior” are often vague and impossible to properly defend. It is imperative that if such charges are made against you, you obtain legal counsel who can get involved right away. Such vague, subjective allegations often are relatively easy to defend against, when the true facts are ascertained.

In the case of Fahlen v. Sutter Central Valley Hosp., 58 Cal. 4th 655 (2014), the physician’s hospital clinical privileges were terminated because of a claim of disruptive behavior. The California Supreme Court reversed the hospital’s decision and allowed the physician the right to proceed with a whistleblower case alleging substandard nursing care by the hospital’s nursing staff and the presence of risk to patient safety. In effect, the Court ruled that the doctor was merely a valid whistleblower complaining about quality of care issues. There are similar cases from other jurisdictions.

One can defend such a case by showing that the doctor’s actions are objectively reasonable under the circumstances. Other times you may have a defense you can show because an economic competitor is filing complaints or causing them to be filed against you. Sometimes complaints are generated by hospital staff as a result of a physician’s complaining about incompetent nursing staff or lack of proper equipment. In some cases, we have seen a single nurse generate enough animosity towards a physician so as to have charged with being disruptive.

Read one of my past blogs titled, “Disruptive Physicians: Nobody Likes a Nuisance” to learn more about this topic.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in accusations of disruptive behavior, Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

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

KeyWords: Physician representation, hospital, and medical staff peer review hearings, representation for medical staff fair hearings, medical board representation, Professionals Resource Network (PRN) legal representation, “physician health program” and peer assistance representation, PRN attorney, representation for peer review hearings, disruptive physician representation, disruptive physician defense lawyer, peer review defense attorney, Board of Nursing representation, Board of Pharmacy representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine defense lawyer, representation for board matters, healthcare board representation, representation for healthcare professionals, physician defense lawyer, medical license defense, healthcare license defense, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Doctor Voluntarily Relinquishes License Due to Allegations of Malpractice and Over-Prescribing Oxycodone

By Danielle M. Murray, J.D., Attorney, The Health Law Firm

A doctor in Polk County, Florida, has lost his license to practice medicine. Rather than risk having his license revoked in an administrative proceeding, the now former doctor offered to voluntarily relinquish his license. The Florida Board of Medicine voted to accept the voluntary relinquishment on Friday, August 3, 2012, according to a Lakeland Ledger article.

Click here to read the entire Lakeland Ledger article.

Doctor Nabbed in Sting Operation for Allegedly Prescribing Oxycodone to Undercover Agents.

The article states the doctor from Winter Haven was nabbed in a sting operation in 2010 after allegedly providing prescriptions for oxycodone to undercover police officers without actually performing a valid medical examination. The physician allegedly pled no contest to trafficking oxycodone and illegal delivery of a controlled substance. He is currently awaiting sentencing for his offenses, which may result in three to seven years in prison, along with five years of probation, and mental health counseling.

He was also a named suspect in the deaths of five patients who allegedly overdosed on the medications. Prosecutors decided not to pursue homicide charges.

Doctor Also Faces Malpractice Investigation.

The doctor, who practiced internal medicine, also faced a malpractice investigation by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). According to the DOH, he is accused of mismanagement of a former patient’s care. That patient allegedly developed an aggressive form of prostate cancer as a result. A subsequent doctor who treated the patient ordered a biopsy and diagnosed the patient with prostate cancer that was far advanced.

To read the entire case from the DOH, click here.

Reasons to Not Voluntarily Relinquish a Medical License.

We almost always counsel our clients to refrain from voluntarily relinquishing their medical licenses in such circumstances. A voluntary relinquishment of a license in the face of a pending investigation is treated, for all practical purposes, the same as a disciplinary revocation.

The consequences will usually include:

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

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

 3. Action to revoke, suspend or take other action against the clinical privileges and medical staff membership of those licensed health professionals who may have such in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, or staff model HMO or clinic.

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

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

 6. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will act to revoke the professional’s DEA registration if he or she has one.

 7. The board certified health professional’s certifying organization will act to revoke his or her certification.

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Providers in DOH Cases.

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

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

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

Sources:

Adams, Robin. “Two Polk Doctors Relinquish Licenses to Board of Medicine.” Lakeland Ledger. (August 3, 2012). From: http://www.theledger.com/article/20120803/NEWS/120809775?tc=ar

Adams, Robin. “Winter Haven Doctor Faces Medical Board Action for Trafficking in Oxycodone.” Lakeland Ledger. (August 2, 2012). From: http://www.theledger.com/article/20120802/NEWS/120809855/1001/BUSINESS?Title=Winter-Haven-Doctor-Faces-Medical-Board-Action-for-Trafficking-in-Oxycodone

Pleasant, Matthew. “Winter Haven Doctor Won’t Face Murder Charges in Overdose Deaths.” Lakeland Ledger. (March 29, 2011). From:

http://www.theledger.com/article/20110329/NEWS/110329349

Fields, Tammie. “Dr. Ernesto Juan Perez Arrested, Named Murder Suspect.” WTSP. (October 29, 2010). From: http://www.wtsp.com/news/topstories/story.aspx?storyid=153540

Aycrigga, George. “Drug Sting Nabs Dr. Perez; Oxycodone Charges Filed.” News Chief. (October 30,2010). From: http://www.newschief.com/article/20101030/news/10305009

About the Author: Danielle M. Murray is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

Drug Enforcement Administration Agents Raid Central Florida Pain Management Clinic

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents along with local police and sheriffs’ deputies raided a Longwood, Florida, pain management clinic on June 14, 2013. According to the Orlando Sentinel, agents searched for evidence at the clinic associated with multiple doctors. DEA agents stated the clinic was operating as a “pill mill” and allegedly diverting legal prescriptions for illegal purposes. No one was arrested during the raid. Longwood is a suburb of Orlando.

Investigation Spreads to South Florida.

According to WESH-TV, during the raid agents took everything from the clinic that could help them build a criminal prosecution. This included paper records, computer equipment and prescription drugs. DEA agents would not say how many people they were investigating, but they did say this raid was the result of a two-year long investigation.

In addition to the Longwood pain clinic, DEA agents said they are also searching locations in Brevard County, Florida, where associates of the Longwood clinic allegedly live.

To watch the WESH-TV report, click here.
Two Doctors Associated With the Longwood Clinic Allegedly “Blacklisted” by Pharmacy.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, two doctors associated with the Longwood clinic were allegedly “blacklisted” in 2011, by CVS Pharmacy. This means that CVS notified those physicians that the pharmacy chain would no longer fill prescriptions they wrote for certain drugs such as oxycodone, due to suspiciously high prescribing rates. To read a previous blog on the CVS blacklist, click here.

Click here to read the entire Orlando Sentinel article.

The Longwood pain clinic is currently closed. Whether this will be temporary or permanent is unknown at this time.

Different Clinic, Similar Storyline.

This raid on the Longwood clinic is just one of the many we’ve recently seen in Florida. DEA agents and local law enforcement officials are not slowing down in their fight against illegal pill mills, and illegal prescribing and dispensing practices. To read a blog on two Orlando-area pharmacists recently arrested on charges of alleged drug trafficking, click here. Even the biggest pharmacy chains are not immune to investigations. Walgreens just agreed to pay $80 million to settle a DEA investigation into the chain’s dispensing practices of prescription drugs. To read more, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases and Licensing Actions.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies.
If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

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

Comments?

What do you think about all of these raids on pharmacies and pain clinics? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

McDaniel, Dave. “Agents Raid Longwood Pain Clinic.” WESH-TV. (June 14, 2013). From: http://www.wesh.com/news/central-florida/seminole-county/agents-raid-longwood-pain-clinic/-/17597106/20572512/-/item/0/-/afpnwwz/-/index.html

Pavuk, Amy. “Agents Raid Longwood Pain Clinic.” Orlando Sentinel. (June 14, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-professional-pain-care-raid-20130614,0,3826330.story#tugs_story_display
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

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