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Court reinstates retaliation claim by occupational therapist

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A federal appeals court has reinstated a retaliation claim filed under the False Claims Act by an occupational therapist while upholding dismissal of her FCA violations claims.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Carla Crockett, who was terminated from her job at Troy, Michigan-based Complete Fitness Rehabilitation Inc. after six months, had met the less exacting standards needed to pursue her retaliation complaint in her whistleblower suit in United States of America ex rel. Carla Crockett v. Complete Fitness Rehabilitation Inc.

Ms. Crockett had charged in her lawsuit that she was terminated from her position at Complete Fitness because she had complained of the company’s policy of allegedly overproviding treatments to Medicare patients “and thereby receiving greater payments from Medicare than a more limited treatment scheme would have permitted.”

She filed suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit charging violations of the FCA and retaliation. The court dismissed her entire case, holding her complaint lacked “any specific identification of a false claim.”

A three-judge appeals court panel unanimously upheld dismissal of the FCA claims, concluding Ms. Crocket “failed to allege the particularity required…that a specific false claim was submitted to the United States. 

“Crockett identified various improprieties that, if credited, could demonstrate that Complete Rehab provided patients with more treatments than medical need justified,” said the ruling.

“Crockett did not, however, show – especially not with any particularity – that the United States was charged for this purported overtreatment, or that there was a claim on the government.”

This particularity was not required, however, for her to pursue her retaliation claim, said the ruling, in reinstating that claim. Ms. Crockett “overcomes the hurdle necessary to survive a motion to dismiss here,” said the panel, in remanding the case for further proceedings.

The Trump administration is aggressively pursuing False Claims Act cases and is expected to continue to do so, says a law firm analysis issued last week.