Phelps Dunbar Obtains Final Summary Judgment In False Claims Act Lawsuit

February 12, 2016

TAMPA – Phelps Dunbar LLP has successfully defended a major False Claims Act suit on behalf of one of its clients.

On January 12, 2016, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams, Southern District of Florida, granted final summary judgment in favor of the client and entered judgment in their favor January 13, 2016.

The False Claims Act suit against the client was filed by two former employees in April 2010 pursuant to the False Claims Act’s qui tam provision, 33 U.S.C. § 3730(b), which permits plaintiffs, referred to as “relators,” to bring False Claims Act suits on behalf of the United States. The suit alleged the client violated the False Claims Act in 2008 and 2009 by violating Medicare regulations in the sale of durable medical equipment and knowingly presenting “false claims” to Medicare for reimbursement of those sales. The government declined to intervene in the case in 2012, and the relators proceeded with their qui tam suit.

The client was defended by Jessica Kirkwood Alley, A. Brian Albritton, Michael S. Hooker and Lawrence P. Ingram of Phelps Dunbar in Tampa, Florida.

The Court’s recent order granting full summary judgment followed on its initial grant of partial summary judgment in favor of the client in July 2015. Filed in February 2014, the client’s motion for partial summary judgment sought summary judgment on the six “exemplars” of the alleged False Claims Act violations listed by the relators in their second amended complaint. In a decision to be published in the Federal Supplement 3rd - United States of America ex rel., Gerry Phalp  & Matt Peoples v. Lincare Holdings Inc. and Lincare Inc. d/b/a Diabetic Experts of America, __ F.Supp.3d__, 2015 WL 4528955( July 10, 2015, S.D. Fla.), the Court held in favor of the client after it analyzed the complex Medicare regulations and statutes at issue. In its order, the Court found that a “reasonable, but erroneous interpretation of a complex statutory or regulatory scheme should not, without facts demonstrating reckless disregard, create False Claims Act liability.” In so doing, the Court extended a line of that hold that “disputes as to the interpretation of regulations do not implicate False Claims Act liability.”

The case is one of several significant False Claims Act cases Phelps Dunbar has recently defended. The firm successfully defended clients in two large multi-defendant False Claims Act qui tams brought by relators in Louisiana, United States of America ex rel. Branch Consultants, LLC v. Allstate Insurance Co., et al., 782 F. Supp. 2d 248 (E.D. La. 2011) and Texas, United States of America ex rel Kermith Sonnier v. Standard Fire Insurance Company, et al., 84 F.Supp.3d 575 (S. D. Tx. 2015). Along with these and other unsealed False Claims Act cases, Phelps Dunbar attorneys have also successfully resolved numerous sealed False Claims Act matters.

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With offices positioned along the Gulf Coast from Houston to Tampa, Phelps Dunbar is a regional law firm of more than 260 attorneys uniquely equipped to serve clients in the major commercial centers of the burgeoning “Third Coast” of the United States. Locations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jackson, Tupelo and Gulfport, Mississippi; Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Tampa, Florida; Mobile, Alabama as well as Raleigh, North Carolina; and London, England enable Phelps Dunbar to serve clients not only along the Third Coast, but also the South, nationwide and abroad.