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How Proof Is Essential in Qui Tam/Whistleblower Cases

A word of warning: Don’t ever bring a whistleblower case based on accusations alone.  They will be treated as speculation and given no weight.  You must have some level of proof.  What that proof needs to depend on the judge.

Recently, US District Judge John E. Steele in Fort Myers, FL decided the proof in the case he was reviewing was not enough. He ruled that a qui tam/ whistleblower case filed in his courtroom against a large medical group must be dismissed because the relator’s claims were “speculative.” His ruling stated that the complaint did not raise enough factual allegations to be more than a guess.

The medical group in question was the Physicians Regional Healthcare System. The complaint, filed by former hospital executive Michael Mastej, claimed that the doctor group was illegally bribing physicians to give patient referrals.  While I am sure Master believed the claims to be true, he needed to have some degree of actual proof before filing his accusations in a formal complaint.

Could that proof have been a deposition, an affidavit, an email? I don’t know what the judge would have found had any of those things been present to substantiate Mastej’s allegations. But in this case, Judge Steele dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice. That means Master doesn’t even get the right to try and amend his complaint to add in more allegations. That means game over!  I don’t know if they will appeal or not, but it doesn’t look good for this whistleblower.

The moral of the story is BEWARE QUI TAM RELATORS. You must get your proof in order, and you must find an attorney who is experienced in drafting a viable whistleblower complaint.

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