Lawsuit Alleges Mistreatment of Patients, Misuse of Funds
A Santa Ana judge on Wednesday began hearing a motion to determine whether a majority of 30 lawsuits against California hospitals should be consolidated into one comprehensive federal case, the Fresno Bee reports. The lawsuits were filed this summer by a team of attorneys commissioned by Erin Brockovich.
The action seeks to expose "millions of dollars" in Medicare funds that hospitals received for medical treatment stemming from medical errors, according to a lawsuit filed in Fresno County Superior Court in June. Instead of using its own funds to pay for additional treatment to fix any errors, the hospital illegally billed Medicare, the lawsuit says.
Hospital officials say Brockovich and her legal team lack sufficient evidence to prove their charges.
Ken Connor -- an attorney with Wilkes & McHugh, the Tampa, Fla.-based firm representing Brockovich -- said that the evidence will be uncovered once the lawyers investigate records and interview defendants.
Brockovich is exercising federal whistleblower laws, which allow private citizens to act on behalf of the government and sue agencies that misuse government funds. If hospitals lose the case, they would have to pay back double the amount that they are found to have received illegally, with a percentage of that amount going to the person who filed the suit (Collins, Fresno Bee, 10/19).