New York, New York – Milberg LLP today announced that the United States Department of Justice and a whistleblower represented by the firm have reached an agreement with Florida-based Baptist Health System Inc. (“BHS”) to resolve civil fraud liability under the Federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) for $2.5 million.
The government partially joined a whistleblower (“qui tam
”) lawsuit brought by Verchetta Wells, a former patient referral coordinator for the neurology practice at BHS’s Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida, who alleged, among other things, that Dr. Sean Orr, the former Chief of Neurology at Baptist Medical Center, had provided unnecessary and unreasonable services to hundreds of patients, including intentionally misdiagnosing healthy patients with serious conditions such as multiple sclerosis or brain lesions, in order to bill for expensive treatment and medications. Many of these unnecessary services were billed to Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs and government-funded health plans, in violation of the federal False Claims Act and Florida False Claims Act. When officials at BHS and the medical center began to uncover Dr. Orr’s alleged fraud, rather than report Dr. Orr to the authorities, the hospital actively worked to conceal Dr. Orr’s conduct, including keeping the Florida and federal government in the dark, in hopes of avoiding liability while retaining the improper financial benefits that accrued to them.
Milberg attorneys, Kirk E. Chapman
and Rolando G. Marquez
, represented Ms. Wells in her lawsuit against the doctor and the hospital chain.
The lawsuit was filed in January 2012 in the Middle District of Florida under the qui tam
, or whistleblower, provisions of the federal False Claims Act and parallel provisions of Florida’s False Claims Act. These provisions permit private parties to sue on behalf of the federal and state governments and when they believe an individual or company has submitted false claims for government funds.
“We are pleased with this result as this case serves as another example of how the False Claims Act empowers Americans to help fight fraud on the government and American taxpayers, no matter how big or small the fraud may be. It demonstrates how ordinary citizens who care about following the law and doing the right thing can make a difference,” said Milberg partner Kirk Chapman.
The False Claims Act creates a unique and powerful public/private partnership for the pursuit of fraud claims by whistleblowers. Ms. Wells’ attorneys worked in coordination with attorneys of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division in Washington and the Office of Middle District of Florida Acting United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III.
The government’s investigation was led by Benjamin Young, Trial Attorney with the Justice Department’s Civil Fraud Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Mehta of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville, alongside agents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Defense Health Agency Program Integrity Office and the Office of Personnel Management Office of Inspector General.
The case is United States and State of Florida ex rel. Verchetta Wells v. Orr, et al.
, case number 3:12-cv-00047, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
For more information about the case, contact Kirk E. Chapman or Rolando G. Marquez.