MedStar Health Settles False Claims Act Case For $35 Million

in Whistleblower (False Claims Act, Qui Tam) March 22nd, 2019

Lawsuits Accused MedStar Union Memorial Hospital Surgeon of Performing Unnecessary Stent Surgeries and MedStar Health of Paying Unlawful Kickbacks

GREENBELT, MD – March 21, 2019 – MedStar Health Inc. and two of its hospitals in Baltimore, Md. have agreed to pay the United States $35 million dollars to resolve two qui tam lawsuits filed by two sets of relators. The lawsuits alleged that MedStar Union Memorial Hospital surgeon John Wang, M.D. performed medically unnecessary stent surgeries that should not have been billed to Medicare; and that MedStar paid kickbacks to a cardiology group in exchange for referrals. 

The whistleblower lawsuit alleging unnecessary stent procedures by Dr. Wang was filed by Towson, Md. based law firm, Smith, Gildea & Schmidt, and Greenbelt, Md. based law firm, Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A. That lawsuit was brought by former patients of Dr. Wang, and asserted that Dr. Wang, MedStar, and Union Memorial Hospital engaged in a practice of performing medically unnecessary coronary stent surgeries, and then submitted false claims for payment to Medicare for those procedures. 

“Coronary stent procedures are very serious and have inherent risk. They should never be performed on a patient whose medical condition does not require it,” said Jay P. Holland, a partner at Joseph, Greenwald & Laake and the lead attorney representing the whistleblowers in the case along with his partners Tim Maloney and Veronica Nannis. “The decision to perform any medical procedure, and especially a coronary procedure, should always be made based solely on the medical needs of the patient, and never on an illicit profit incentive,” added JGL’s Veronica Nannis, who along with Mr. Maloney and Mr. Holland has handled several high profile kickback cases in the past, including class actions and health care kickback qui tams.

The lawsuit alleged that symptoms and tests were fraudulently overstated in order to  justify the unnecessary stent procedure. The procedure should only be performed on patients who have a very high level of diagnosed stenosis – over 70% blockage of the arteries.

Attorney Michael Paul Smith, a partner at Smith, Gildea & Schmidt, said “the lawsuit our clients filed alleged that MedStar falsely represented the level of stenosis in patients, in order to justify performing unnecessary stent procedures, and bill Medicare for those procedures.” Smith further stated that “we are very pleased that the efforts of our clients put a stop to this dangerous practice and returned funds to the Government.”

The law firms worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore, led by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Roann Nichols and Matthew P. Phelps. “Participation from the private bar and the federal government made this case an exemplar of the kind of private-public partnership the False Claims Act is meant to foster,” Mr. Holland said. “We are grateful for the hard work put in by all of the government attorneys and agents who brought about this resolution.”

The other connected lawsuit settled by the Government was filed by Steve Simms, Bill Gately and Al Brault on behalf of their three heart surgeon / Relators – Drs. Lincoln, McDonald and Horneffer.

Jay Holland is a Principal with the Firm, and is Chair of the Firm’s Labor, Employment and Qui Tam practice. His False Claims Act cases have resulted in recoveries of over $630 Million for the United States. His recent publications include articles for The National Law Journal, Trial Magazine, D.C. Trial Lawyer, and the Maryland State Bar Association Employment Law Deskbook, and has been named a Super Lawyer in DC and Maryland for the last several years. He can be reached at jholland@jgllaw.com.

Veronica Nannis is a Principal with the Firm and serves as the Chair of the Firm’s civil litigation department. A Super Lawyer’s Rising Star in DC and Maryland for the last several years, she was also awarded the Maryland Association for Justice’s Trial Lawyer of the Year Award in 2011 with the team from Joseph, Greenwald & Laake. Recent publications include those for Law 360 and the The Daily Record. She can be reached at vnannis@jgllaw.com.

Tim Maloney is a preeminent trial lawyer who has obtained millions of dollars for his clients in a wide variety of complex matters, including civil rights, employment discrimination, class actions, and business litigation. He is a permanent member of the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference. Mr. Maloney has served on both the Md. Appellate Nominating Commission since 2007 and has been a member of the Ethics Committee of the Maryland State Bar Association. He has been named a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine since 2008, and one of the Best Lawyers in Washington by Washingtonian Magazine in 2011. He has been a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers since 2008. He can be reached at tmaloney@jgllaw.com.

Michael Paul Smith is an active trial lawyer whose practice concentrates on areas of complex civil litigation, including personal injury, class action consumer claims, individual claims against colleges and universities, products liability, medical malpractice, and business litigation. He also has numerous business clients to whom he provides business advice. Mr. Smith has successfully obtained tens of millions of dollars in settlements and jury awards in his litigation career. Mr. Smith serves on the legislative committee of the Maryland Association of Justice and lectures to other attorneys nationwide regarding trial techniques and skills. He can be reached at mpsmith@sgs-law.com.

 

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