Settling FCA Claim From the Great Beyond

Just because you die, it doesn’t mean you can’t be held accountable for illegal activity conducted while you were still alive, as evidenced by a recent settlement agreement announced by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Orlando, in late January, announced that the estate of Dr. Patrick T. Hunter paid $1.7 million to resolve allegations that he violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by submitting claims for unnecessary kidney stone procedures, and took part in an illegal kickback arrangement.

It was alleged that Hunter, who passed away in 2019, submitted claims for extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, a procedure used to break up kidney stones, between January 2010 and April 2016. The procedures were performed on Medicare and TRICARE patients at the Orlando Center for Outpatient Surgery, LP.

According to the allegations, Surgical Care Affiliates, Inc., of which the Orlando Center for Outpatient Surgery, L.P, is an affiliate, engaged in multiple peer reviews indicating that the doctor told patients they had kidney stones, when in fact they did not. Despite this, Hunter was paid per procedure for each patient he referred to the surgery center, resulting in payments of more than $5 million, according to court documents.

The case came to the attention of the government via a qui tam, or whistleblower lawsuit, filed in December 2016 by Scott Thompson, who at the time had been the surgery center’s director of compliance. Thomson noticed that the number of procedures that Hunter was performing was unusually high – almost twice as much as the next highest ordering physician. In one year, the doctor performed 695 lithotripsy procedures, according to the lawsuit.

Hunter had a financial arrangement whereby the surgery center leased the lithotripsy machine owned by Urology Treatment Center. Hunter was an owner of UTC and on the surgery center’s medical staff.

Thompson, in his lawsuit, claimed that he attempted to stop the submission of the false claims to no avail and that his supervisors told him to “stand down.” Thompson was later fired. Relators, like Thompson, are eligible for a portion of the recovery. In this case, he will receive $385,000 from the settlement agreement.

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale is known for its representation of whistleblowers as well as its ability to defend those who become the target of a whistleblower action. For more information contact us at  305-358-4500 or email info@vitalehealthlaw.com.

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