Trials & Litigation

Repeat whistleblowers reap millions of dollars in false-claims suits

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A Louisiana doctor has earned $38 million from whistleblower suits accusing health-care companies of defrauding Medicare and other taxpayer-funded programs.

The physician, William LaCorte, “is a so-called serial whistleblower,” the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. He has filed a dozen whistleblower suits in the last two decades, and five of those suits helped the government recover hundreds of millions of dollars.

Two of LaCorte’s suits are still pending, while five others did not yield a whistleblower award. One judge who tossed one of his suits said it was no more than a “threadbare” recounting of public information.

LaCorte’s mixed record “embodies both sides of the debate” over strengthened whistleblower incentives in the False Claims Act, the story says. On the one hand, the lawsuits help ferret out fraud that is costing the government money. On the other, some lawsuits are found to be inadequate or settled without payment of whistleblower fees.

Successful whistleblowers can obtain up to 30 percent of the recovery, less their attorney fees.

The story notes Justice Department statistics on 5,400 suits filed under the False Claims Act from 1987 to 2010. Of those cases that had outcomes, 74 percent failed.

LaCorte says his suits stem from discoveries in his practice and money wasn’t his primary goal. “I did not go looking for most of it,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “It came to me.” One of his lawyers says LaCorte was partly motivated by his annoyance over unnecessary lab tests.

The number of suits filed by LaCorte pales in comparison to those filed by Ven-A-Care of the Florida Keys Inc. A former pharmacy, Ven-A-Care has sued at least 35 health-care companies and obtained $425 million in whistleblower compensation, the story says.

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