Medtronic, the major medical device maker who has appeared numerous times this year in Tennessee Law Blog’s defective drugs and medical device blogs, now finds itself in a whistleblower (False Claims) lawsuit filed by a former Tennessee employee Ami Kelley, a Nashville, TN Medtronic attorney.
The whistleblower lawsuit alleges Medtronic falsely filed Medicare claims in violation of the False Claims Act, paid kickbacks to over 130 medical doctors, including orthopedic spine surgeons and neurosurgeons, and promoted off-label use (non-FDA approved uses, including INFUSE bone grafts) of Medtronic products, as well as other violations.
Previously in 2006, Medtronic settled for $40 million after a government lawsuit found that Medtronic promoted its medical devices and other products to surgeons by providing such incentives as lap dances at strip clubs like the Platinum Plus in Memphis (whose owner was sentenced for prostitution-related charges in December 2006). The present qui tam lawsuit alleges similar misconduct in “educational” seminars that were more Bacchean than Socratic with women “provided” to attending doctors.
A qui tam or “False Claims” lawsuit rewards whistleblowers reporting fraud against the government, such as Medicare or Medicaid fraud, by offering the whistleblower (called a “relator” in qui tam cases) a percentage of the award moneys returned to the government. Tennessee has its own version, one specific to securing the safety of Tennessee tax dollars funding its health system, called Tennessee’s Medicaid False Claims Act (TMFCA), which offers Tennessee relators even higher percentage of the qui tam recovered tax moneys (up to one-third of the total).
Qui tam is Latin and short for a phrase meaning “to sue for the king as well as one’s self.” Enacted by President Lincoln during the rampant fraud against the government of the Civil War, False Claims lawsuits are one of the government’s most effective means of limiting fraud and abuse. This is because relator, as an employee, has inside knowledge and understanding of the abuse of government funding. Also, the relator is protected from retaliation from his or her employer for blowing the whistle. For these reasons, qui tam relators have been able to recover literally billions of tax dollars and receive millions for their upstanding honesty and bravery.
If you are interested in learning more about federal or Tennessee False Claims Law, check out our Nashville law office’s webpage on whistleblower/qui tam lawsuits.
If you believe you might have a False Claims whistleblower lawsuit, or have previously pursued a qui tam filing but not had Tennessee or the U.S. government not pursue your case, contact me through our Nashville law office’s website or give me a call at (615) 353-0930. Consultation is always free.