published Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Judge sets deadline in Life Care whistleblower case

  • photo
    Life Care Centers of America, headquartered in Cleveland, Tenn.
    Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The 2008 whistleblower lawsuit filed against Cleveland, Tenn.-based Life Care Centers of America may be the oldest case on a local federal judge's docket, but it won't be over anytime soon.

On Wednesday afternoon lawyers met with U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice to see where the case stood for a possible trial or resolution.

Each side disagrees how the case can move forward, but both agreed with deadlines set for September and another in 2015.

All involved will meet again Sept. 4 and argue how the lawsuit should proceed. Mattice set the final exchange of information, or discovery, deadline for Feb. 6, 2015.

No trial date has been set.

The lawsuit involves allegations of a nationwide Medicare fraud scheme by the company, lodged by former Life Care employees Glenda Martin and Tammie Taylor.

In court documents, prosecutors claim that Life Care therapists at multiple facilities billed Medicare for unnecessary and sometimes harmful treatments.

While investigating the case, prosecutors interviewed more than 150 company employees. They have asked that Life Care turn over 400 patient records from 79 facilities.

The company has 225 facilities, most of them nursing homes, in 28 states.

Prosecutor Elizabeth Tonkin of Knoxville is the lead local attorney for the U.S. Attorney's office on the case. But on Wednesday, Andy J. Mao of the Justice Department's civil division answered most of Mattice's questions.

Washington, D.C.-based Mao has served as senior counsel for health care fraud and elder justice at the department. He was involved in prosecuting a $3 billion judgment against GlaxoSmithKline, a major pharmaceutical company charged with illegal promotion of certain drugs.

Mao explained that the goal of reviewing the 400 records is to obtain a "statistical sample" to help determine the level of responsibility Life Care has in the lawsuit, which would help Mattice measure the potential money to be paid if the company is found guilty of false claims.

The lead local attorney for Life Care, Roger Dickson, argued both Wednesday and at the April hearing that because each therapist, facility and patient is different, the sample may not be useful for Mattice.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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