Halunen Law False Claims Act Attorneys on the National Stage

November 2nd, 2020

This past month, attorneys in the Halunen Law False Claims Act/Whistleblower Practice Group provided their expertise in presentations at conferences with national outreach on cutting-edge issues in False Claims Act law.

The annual national conference for attorneys who represent relators in False Claims Act lawsuits (Taxpayers Against Fraud – www.taf.org) took place October 28-30. Halunen attorney Lon Leavitt spoke on a panel about “Medical Judgment in False Claims Act Cases: Key Precedents, Common Defenses, Practice Pointers, and What’s Next” that tackled the issue of when claimed medical judgments rise to the level of fraud. Regrettably, there is compelling evidence (for example, in admission of patients to hospice programs) that allegedly medical decisions are motivated primarily by monetary gain. The panel emphasized cases where courts have acknowledged that, with proper evidence, it can be shown that a medical opinion is not necessary or made in the best interests of patients. Said Attorney Leavitt: “I was particularly glad to participate in this panel because cases in which medical procedures are unnecessary not only waste taxpayer money, but can actually harm patients. Whistleblowers are so important to ferreting out this horrifying conduct.”

At the same conference, Halunen Attorney Nathaniel Smith spoke at a plenary session on “Materiality under the False Claims Act.” This critical issue addresses how to evaluate whether particular fraud is sufficiently significant (that is, material) to warrant imposition of False Claims Act damages and penalties on a perpetrator. This issue is complicated by issues related to the government’s conduct and how much weight should be given to an agency’s opinion about the egregiousness of the conduct. Halunen attorney Nathaniel Smith commented: “The statute defines materiality as having the ability to influence a decision whether to pay a claim; this ability to influence conduct should be the determinant, not what an individual government agency employee may have believed about the conduct.”

Both panels included Department of Justice attorneys.

Earlier this month, Lon Leavitt also participated in a panel at a conference of the Health Care Compliance Association. He and an attorney who defends corporations accused of False Claims Act violations spoke on “Prosecution and Defense: Points of Collaboration and Contention in False Claims Act Cases.” Issues covered included the False Claims Act’s knowing and materiality requirements, the import and impact of certain government policies, clinical judgments as a basis for falsity, and the use of statistical sampling.

All of these presentations involve critical issues in achieving success when representing whistleblowers. Halunen Law False Claims Act/Whistleblower attorneys are dedicated to shaping the law to make it a more powerful tool to deter illegal conduct and to reward and protect whistleblowers.

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Lon Leavitt

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Nathaniel Smith

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