Attorney Says Life Care Lawsuit Could Take Over A Year To Try

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An attorney for Cleveland, Tn.,-based Life Care Centers of America said a government fraud lawsuit against the firm is so broad that it could take over a year to try it.

Chattanooga attorney Roger Dickson told Federal Judge Sandy Mattice that the way the case was brought "will bring a big, big burden on this court."

Government prosecutor Elizabeth Tonkin acknowledged that the case involves 60-80 of Life Care's 225 facilities and hundreds of patients.

She said the government will seek to prove fraud was so widespread at Life Care that a certain sample number of charges should be considered invalid.

She told the judge that Life Care routinely "filed false claims for therapy that was not medically necessary and much more than what the patient really needed. The charges were assessed at the highest levels possible from the time patients came into the facility."

Prosecutor Tonkin said the probe dates to 2006. She said the government started issuing subpoenas for records from Life Care in 2008.

Attorney Dickson said the issues involve "subjective decisions by physicians and therapists."

He said the situation involving each patient "can be a mini trial lasting a day or two."

Initial disclosures are due by May 17 and another meeting with the judge will be June 12 at 2 p.m. 

The suit seeks to recover millions of dollars that Life Care "caused the Medicare and TRICARE programs to pay for services that were not covered by the skilled nursing facility benefit, that were not medically reasonable and necessary, and that were not skilled in nature."

One "whistle blower" complaint was brought by Glenda Martin, a registered nurse and a former staff development coordinator of Life Care Center of Morristown, Tn.

Another was by Tammie Taylor, a former occupational therapist of Life Care Center at Inverrary, in Lauderhill, Fla.

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