Fish’s Brooks Successfully Defends Fresenius in Complex False Claims Act Lawsuit - Month Long Trial Ends with 45 Minutes of Jury Deliberation

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Fish & Richardson announced today that the firm has successfully defended Fresenius Medical Care and El Paso, Texas-based nephrologist Dr. Alphonso Chavez in a major civil lawsuit involving Medicare fraud under the federal False Claims Act. Juanita Brooks, a principal with Fish & Richardson’s San Diego office, was co-lead counsel on the case. This is the third successful jury verdict Brooks has received for Fresenius, which operates 1,700 outpatient dialysis clinics in the United States, in addition to manufacturing and distributing a variety of dialysis products and equipment.

Fish & Richardson announced today that the firm has successfully defended Fresenius Medical Care and El Paso, Texas-based nephrologist Dr. Alphonso Chavez in a major civil lawsuit involving Medicare fraud under the federal False Claims Act. Juanita Brooks, a principal with Fish & Richardson’s San Diego office, was co-lead counsel on the case. This is the third successful jury verdict Brooks has received for Fresenius, which operates 1,700 outpatient dialysis clinics in the United States, in addition to manufacturing and distributing a variety of dialysis products and equipment.

The lawsuit, brought by a former employee of Fresenius Medical Care, Rebecca Gonzalez, claimed that Chavez, nurses and patient care technicians conspired to defraud Medicare with the use of unlicensed medical assistants in two Texas clinics owned by Fresenius. The trial lasted one month yet the eight person, all female jury needed less than 45 minutes to deliberate before returning a defense verdict on all counts. Gonzalez had originally requested more than $350 million, however, she received nothing under the verdict.

The federal False Claims Act allows private citizens, as well as the government to sue individuals, companies or institutions that are defrauding the government and recover three times the government's losses plus $5,000 to $10,000 for each false claim.

“False Claims Act litigation can be extremely complex and can have lasting ramifications for all parties involved,” states Brooks. “Fresenius and Dr. Chavez were exonerated of any wrong doing as the testimony clearly showed their employment practices did not result in any loss to Medicare.”

Brooks is a nationally known intellectual property and civil litigator. She previously represented Fresenius in intellectual property disputes regarding the company’s dialysis machines and supplies, with successful verdicts. Jim Bennett of St. Louis-based Dowd & Bennett served as Brooks’ co-lead counsel. Roger Denning, also a principal with Fish & Richardson in San Diego, and paralegal Donna Rousseau rounded out the trial team.

When the False Claims Act lawsuit was originally filed in 2006, Gonzalez and her attorney, Tom Stanton, requested that the government take over prosecution of the case. After review of the documents provided by Stanton, the federal government declined to intervene.

The plaintiff’s case was also seriously undermined when Gonzalez admitted to stealing checks, which were normally used for holiday parties for the patients at the El Paso Cliffview and Gateway dialysis clinics owned by Fresenius.

The case (No. EP-07-0247-PRM) was tried in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas.

About Fish & Richardson

Fish & Richardson is a leading global law firm unlike any other law firm in the world. With over 400 lawyers practicing intellectual property, litigation, and technology law, Fish has redefined IP law for a market that values IP as a fundamental business asset. The firm offers unique expertise to help clients maximize the value of their intangible assets. Fish handles more patent litigation than any other law firm (IP Law & Business, September 2009), is the number one IP firm for America’s biggest companies (Corporate Counsel, September 2009), and was named the number one firm in the world for PCT filings (MIP, October 2009). For more information, visit http://www.fr.com.

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Teresa Warren

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