The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama recently ordered that a relator’s qui tam lawsuit must be unsealed upon the case’s voluntary dismissal, denying the relator’s request to maintain the action under seal post-dismissal. This ruling in U.S. ex rel. Meythaler v. Encompass Health Corporation serves as an important reminder that public access to court records is vitally important and that whistleblowers’ allegations and identities will almost certainly be made public, even where the case is dismissed without litigation.

FCA Complaint Filed Under Seal

The relator, a physician formerly employed by the defendant, filed suit under the False Claims Act (FCA) against an inpatient rehabilitation facility operator and the CEOs of two of its Alabama facilities. The complaint alleged numerous schemes, including allegations that the defendants sought reimbursement for treatment of patients who were not eligible for rehabilitation benefits, delayed discharges and other orders to increase reimbursement, and made improper referrals to a home health agency. Per the FCA’s procedural requirements, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2), the relator filed his complaint under seal, giving the government a statutory period of at least 60 days to investigate the allegations and determine whether to intervene in the case.

The government declined to intervene in the action last fall. The relator then filed a notice of voluntary dismissal with prejudice, to which the government later consented. The relator also filed a motion asking the court to maintain the action under seal even after the case was dismissed to prevent the defendants from learning that the relator had filed a qui tam action against them. The government took no position on the relator’s motion.


Continue Reading Relator Cannot Maintain Dismissed Qui Tam Action Under Seal, District Court Rules

On March 31, 2016, the district court granted summary judgment for hospice provider AseraCare in a case alleging that it had submitted false claims to Medicare by certifying patients as eligible for service who did not have a prognosis of six months or less to live if their terminal illness ran its normal course. U.S. ex rel. Paradies v. AseraCare Inc., 2106 WL 1270521 (N.D. Ala. Mar. 31, 2016). In its opinion, the district court reiterated that “the submission of a false claim is the sine qua non of a False Claims Act violation,” and held a “contradiction based on clinical judgment or opinion alone cannot constitute falsity under the FCA as a matter of law.” The district court further explained that when hospice certifying physicians and medical experts “look at the very same medical records and disagree about whether the medical records support hospice eligibility, the opinion of one medical expert alone cannot prove falsity without further evidence of an objective falsehood.”
Continue Reading Failure to Establish Objective Falsity Dooms Government’s Hospice Case