We believe strongly that had the government aggressively pursued Reliant and McDonald, the extent of Medicare fraud would have been proven to be significantly more that what they are now agreeing to pay back.
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Columbia, SC (Vocus) July 29, 2010
The Law Offices of Robert Dodson, P.A. has sued Reliant Hospice and its owner, Tammy McDonald, alleging that Reliant and McDonald committed Medicare fraud by billing the United States government for hospice care for patients who did not require such medical treatment and who were not terminally ill. Hospice care is end-of-life care provided to patients who are diagnosed with terminal medical conditions and have six months or fewer to live.
The lawsuit against Reliant and McDonald -- United States of America, ex rel. Lisa Brown v. Reliant Hospice, Tammy McDonald, Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers, Joseph Washington, Karen Mattocks, and Stewart Darby (Docket No. 3:09-cv-2294-CMC) filed in the United States District Court, District of South Carolina -- was filed in the United States District Court on behalf of the United States government under a law called the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows private individuals to sue wrongdoers on behalf of the United States government to recover money paid out by the government for Medicare fraud.
In this case, Dodson and his client, Lisa Brown, alleged that Reliant Hospice and Tammy McDonald falsified Lisa Brown's medical records in 2006 and reported to Medicare that Lisa Brown was suffering from a terminal medical condition in order to bill Medicare for hospice care for Lisa Brown. In fact, Lisa Brown was healthy in 2006 and is still alive and healthy today. In the underlying lawsuit, Dodson alleged Lisa Brown was one of several patients who Reliant and McDonald used to commit Medicare fraud.
On July 23, 2010, Judge Cameron Currie issued an order dismissing Brown's case because another action (sealed case, docket number is 3:08-cv-3724-CMC) was already pending against Reliant Hospice for Medicare fraud at the time Brown filed her case. In general, the False Claims Act allows only a single lawsuit against a defendant accused of wrongdoing.
"While we disagree with Judge Currie's ruling dismissing this action we also understand and respect that she is required to follow the law. What we do not understand and respect is the lackadaisical manner in which the United States Attorney's Office has pursued Reliant Hospice and Tammy McDonald," Dodson said.
According to Dodson, once the two lawsuits against Reliant Hospice were filed, the U.S. Attorney's Office investigated Reliant and McDonald. Dodson claims the U.S. Attorney's Office only sought to dismiss the case in retaliation against him and his client because they would not consent to a proposed settlement with Reliant and McDonald.
Dodson said, "We filed our case against Reliant, McDonald and others in August 2009. For months we cooperated fully with the government in pursuing Reliant and McDonald. In May, 2010, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced that it wanted to settle the case with Reliant and McDonald for $150,000 to be paid out over the next 5 years. They asked for our consent to the settlement and we refused and objected to the settlement because we believe strongly the evidence against Reliant and McDonald would show that they bilked the government and tax payers out of millions through Medicare fraud. We were simply not going to agree to such a paltry settlement and we told the government that. It is only after objecting to this ridiculously low settlement that the government asked the court to dismiss our case."
Dodson explained that the government sought to accept such a low settlement because Reliant and McDonald were without the financial means to pay a larger settlement. "When the government told us that, we started our own investigation. Tammy McDonald's Facebook page showed pictures of her in Paris, France and in front of a private yacht in Florida. We heard she had front-row seats to the recent Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride concerts and that she went to these concerts in a limo. That hardly sounds like someone without the financial means to pay a larger settlement. What it sounds like to me is someone living high on the hog at taxpayer expense."
According to Dodson "the real loser in all of this is the honest taxpayer. We believe strongly that had the government aggressively pursued Reliant and McDonald, the extent of Medicare fraud would have been proven to be significantly more that what they are now agreeing to pay back."
Dodson said the original action against Reliant Hospice is still under court seal. "With Lisa Brown and me out of the case and the original action under seal, they will probably try to ram through that tiny little settlement without any fanfare or public scrutiny. It is a real shame because Medicare fraud costs the taxpayers billions of dollars. It is disappointing that the government is not pursuing Reliant and McDonald more aggressively."
The Law Offices of Robert Dodson, P.A. is a personal injury law firm that concentrates its practice in the areas of medical malpractice, wrongful death and serious personal injury. The Firm was started in 2003 by founding attorney, Robert Dodson. The firm's commitment and dedication to professional, high-quality legal representation is what separates it from its competitors. For more information, call toll free 1-877-225-8896 or visit RobertDodsonLaw.com.