Congress amended the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) in 2010 to confirm that a claim “resulting from” an AKS violation constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the FCA.  42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b(g).  However, Congress did not define the phrase “resulting from.”  That question is immaterial in a criminal AKS case because the offer or receipt of the payment completes the crime.  But in order to prevail in a civil FCA case, a relator or the government must prove the submission of a false claim to a federal healthcare program.  In recent civil FCA cases, courts have struggled to articulate the precise link that is required in order to establish that a claim “result[s] from” an illegal kickback, often relying on traditional causal concepts to help articulate the required link.  This developing area of the law is one to watch as courts continue to grapple with the interplay between the link required by the plain language of the AKS and the body of case law related to FCA causation.

U.S. ex rel. Greenfield v. Medco Health Sys., Inc.

In U.S. ex rel. Greenfield v. Medco Health Sys., Inc., the relator alleged that the defendants illegally donated to certain charities in order to receive patient referrals and then allegedly falsely certified compliance with the AKS when seeking reimbursement.  The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granted summary judgment for the defendants, reasoning that the relator had not shown a causal link between the defendants’ donations and any claims for payment.  Although discovery revealed that the defendants submitted claims for 24 federally insured patients during the relevant time period, the district court concluded that this evidence alone did not provide “the link between defendants’ 24 federally insured customers and defendants’ donations to [the charities].”  Instead, it explained that the relator was required to show that the federally insured patients were referred to the defendants as a result of the defendants’ donations to the charities.  “Absent some evidence … that those patients chose Accredo because of its donations,” the relator could not carry his burden on his claim.


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As highlighted in a previous post, the $348 million judgment against the owners and operators of skilled nursing facilities in U.S. ex rel. Ruckh v. Genoa Healthcare, LLC, made serious waves in the FCA world.  The judgment, which included a trebling of the jury’s damages verdict and fines of $5,500 for each of over 400 claims, far surpassed any settlement or judgment previously entered in a long-term care or skilled nursing case.  However, on January 11, 2018, nearly a year after entering the landmark judgment, the Middle District of Florida overturned it.  In doing so, the court reiterated some of the more stringent requirements a relator must meet in order to prevail on an FCA claim.

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In a recent opinion, the Seventh Circuit joined its sister circuits in holding that under the FCA, a defendant’s conduct must proximately cause injury to the government in order to incur liability for that injury.  United States v. Luce, No. 16-4093, 2017 WL 4768864 (7th Cir. Oct. 23, 2017).  This decision resolves a circuit split that arose in 1992 when the Seventh Circuit parted company with the Third Circuit—the only other circuit at that time to have addressed the issue.  At that time, the Seventh Circuit held that the FCA required only a “but-for” standard of causation, meaning that a defendant could be held liable under the FCA even if the Government’s loss was not caused directly by the defendant’s conduct so long as the government would not have suffered the loss if not for the defendant’s conduct.  In addition to the Third Circuit, the other circuits that have since addressed this issue—the Fifth, D.C., and Tenth Circuits—have held that the higher standard of “proximate causation” applies to FCA cases.

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