HCA defeats false claims lawsuit over office deals

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to revive a False Claims Act lawsuit against HCA Healthcare, alleging the Nashville, Tenn.-based hospital operator illegally induced physician referrals.

The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act by real estate appraiser Thomas Bingham, according to Law360. Mr. Bingham filed his first amended complaint in August 2014, and he pursued the case on his own after the Department of Justice declined to intervene in the suit in February 2015.

The whistleblower's false claims allegations were predicated on his assertion that HCA violated the Anti-Kickback Statute by giving certain physicians sweetheart lease deals in buildings owned by HCA in exchange for referrals. The buildings are in Aventura, Fla., and Independence, Mo.

In 2016, the district court granted HCA's motion for summary judgment on the claims regarding the office building in Missouri, and dismissed the whistleblower's claims regarding the office building in Florida. Mr. Bingham filed an appeal in the case, arguing the district court erred in granting both motions.

After reviewing the case, the appellate court affirmed the lower court's judgment in favor of HCA on July 31.

The appellate court agreed with the district court that Mr. Bingham's allegations lacked the "indicia of reliability" to support his claims regarding the office building in Florida. The appellate court also concluded the whistleblower failed to show that HCA conveyed any remuneration to physician tenants of the office building in Missouri.

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