Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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Harold Persaud, M.D., a cardiologist in private practice, was charged with one count of health-care fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1347, 14 counts of making false statements relating to health-care matters, 18 U.S.C. 1035, and one count of money laundering, 18 U.S.C. 1957. The grand jury also returned a forfeiture finding, requiring Persaud to forfeit all property linked to the charges, including $343,634.671 seized from bank accounts associated with Persaud and his wife. At trial, the government presented 34 witnesses, including 11 physicians, eight patients, and four nurses. The defense relied on five witnesses, including an expert cardiologist, two referring physicians, and a coding expert. The jury convicted Persaud on all charges, except for one false-statement count. The jury concluded that the $343,634.67 seized from the Persauds’ bank accounts was forfeitable; the $250,188.42 seized from Persaud’s wife’s account was related to his money-laundering conviction; and Persaud’s scheme generated gross proceeds of $2,100,000. The district court sentenced Persaud to 20 years of imprisonment, a $1,500 special assessment, and restitution of $5,486,857.03, which consists of money damages to be paid to Persaud’s patients, their private insurers, and the government. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The jury was entitled to accept the view of the government’s experts over those of Persaud’s experts. View "United States v. Persaud" on Justia Law

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During 2012-2013, three undercover DEA agents posed as patients during an investigation into Dr. Zaidi’s controlled substances prescription practices. As a result, the DEA Deputy Administrator suspended Zaidi’s controlled substances prescription privileges, finding that his continued registration posed an imminent danger to the public health and safety, 21 U.S.C. 824(d). DEA agents also seized controlled substances from Zaidi’s offices. Following a hearing, an ALJ recommended that the suspension and seizure be affirmed and that Zaidi's registration be revoked. The Administrator affirmed the suspension and seizure, but found the registration issue was moot due to the expiration of Zaidi’s registration and his decision not to seek renewal. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the ALJ arbitrarily and capriciously denied Zaidi the opportunity to present testimony from an expert, employees, and former patients; there was insufficient evidence to support the suspension; the government failed to make a prima facie showing that Zaidi’s continued registration was inconsistent with the public interest; Zaidi’ prescriptions to the three undercover officers were not outside the usual course of professional practice and did not lack a legitimate medical purpose; Zaidi did not falsify medical records; and the sanction imposed was disproportionately harsh. View "Akhtar-Zaidi v. Drug Enforcement Administration" on Justia Law

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Means, 18 weeks pregnant, went into labor. She went to Mercy Health, the only hospital within 30 minutes of her residence. Doctors diagnosed preterm premature rupture of the membrane, which usually results in a stillbirth or the baby's death. Means’s unborn baby still had a heartbeat. Mercy sent her home with pain medication without telling Means that the baby would likely not survive or that continuing her pregnancy could endanger her health. The next morning, Means returned with a fever, excruciating pain, and bleeding. Mercy did not give her additional treatment or options, although Means’s physician suspected she had a serious bacterial infection. Mercy sent her home. Means returned that night with contractions. The baby was delivered and died. The pathology report confirmed that Means had acute bacterial infections. Two years later, a public health educator discovered and inquired into Means’s case. Mercy explained that its Directives (ethical guidelines dictated by Catholic doctrine) prohibited inducing labor or similar action. The limitations period had run out on medical malpractice claims. Means sued the Conference of Catholic Bishops, alleging negligence for promulgating and enforcing the Directives. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal. The only link to the Eastern District, where the case was filed, was the decision of Catholic Health Ministries to adopt the Directives. Each individual defendant lives out of state. Means lives in and Mercy is located in the Western District. Means did not allege that the defendants, by adopting the Directives, caused her any cognizable injury.. View "Means v. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops" on Justia Law

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An Ohio State Dental Board-recognized specialist must complete a postdoctoral education program in a specialty recognized by the American Dental Association and limit the scope of his practice to that specialty. The use of the terms “specialist”, “specializes” or “practice limited to” or the terms “orthodontist”, “oral and maxillofacial surgeon”, “oral and maxillofacial radiologist”, “periodontist”, “pediatric dentist”, “prosthodontist”, “endodontist”, “oral pathologist”, or “public health dentist” or similar terms is limited to licensed Board-recognized specialists.. Any general dentist who uses those terms in advertisements can have his dental license placed on probationary status, suspended, or revoked. Kiser, a licensed dentist with postdoctoral education in endodontics (root-canal procedures). does not to limit his practice exclusively to endodontics. The Board’s regulations treat him as a general dentist. He is banned from using the word “endodontist” in his advertisements. In 2009, the Board warned Kiser with respect to the regulations, but did not take further action. In 2012, Kiser requested that the Board review signage that would include the terms “endodontist” and “general dentist.” The Board neither approved nor rejected Kiser’s proposed signage, but recommended that he consult legal counsel. Kiser challenged the regulations as violating: the First Amendment right to commercial speech; substantive and procedural due process; and equal protection. The district court twice dismissed Kiser’s claims. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, finding that Kiser had stated viable claims with respect to the First Amendment, substantive due process, and equal protection. View "Kiser v. Kamdar" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Stephen Arny, M.D., was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and unlawfully dispense prescription pain medications, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 846. Approximately three months later, but before sentencing, Arny secured new counsel, who later moved for a new trial based on trial counsel’s constitutionally ineffective assistance. The district court granted the motion based on its finding that Arny’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel had been violated by counsel’s misrepresentation that the government had stated that another doctor (Saxman) who had worked with Arny and his co-defendants either had a plea deal or would be indicted soon and that her clinic was searched; counsel’s failure to interview Saxman or call her to testify in order to explain the legitimacy of her treatment plans that Arny continued; and counsel’s failure to investigate or interview any of Arny’s patients. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The affidavits of Saxman and the former patients establish a “reasonable probability that, but for [trial] counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” View "United States v. Arny" on Justia Law

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Dubrule, a former medical doctor, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, 21 U.S.C. 846, and 44 counts of distributing controlled substances, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). Kim, Dubrule’s wife and medical assistant, was convicted of conspiring with her husband. The district court sentenced Dubrule to 150 months’ imprisonment and Kim to 18 months’ imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Dubrule’s arguments that the district court erred by finding him competent to stand trial and proceed with sentencing and by failing to sua sponte order a competency hearing either before or during trial; that his pre-trial attorney and standby counsel at trial provided ineffective assistance by failing to request a competency evaluation; that the district court erred by holding that he had waived his insanity defense; and that his due process and Sixth Amendment rights were violated when the court, in making its competency determination, relied upon an expert opinion that misleadingly claimed to be “peer reviewed.” View "United States v. Dubrule" on Justia Law

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P&C filed suit on behalf of Penn, LLC against Prosper Corporation, Prosper’s owners, and their counsel, the Arnold Firm, alleging violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, fraud, conversion, unjust enrichment, and breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the management of Penn and Prosper’s joint venture, BIGresearch. There had been court and arbitration proceedings since 2004, but Penn never before named the Arnold Firm as a defendant. The Arnold Firm served P&C with a letter purporting to satisfy the obligations of Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, threatening to seek sanctions if the matter was not dismissed, and claiming that the action was frivolous and had been filed for the “improper and abusive purpose” of disrupting the Arnold Firm’s attorney-client relationship with Prosper and its owners. The district court ultimately dismissed the Arnold Firm from the action, but denied a motion for Rule 11 sanctions against P&C. The Sixth Circuit affirmed on the alternative ground that the Arnold Firm’s failure to comply with Rule 11’s safe-harbor provision made sanctions unavailable. The Arnold Firm’s warning letter expressly reserved the firm’s right to assert additional grounds for sanctions in its actual motion. View "Penn, LLC v. Prosper Bus. Dev. Corp." on Justia Law

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Haddad bought his condominium in 1991 and lived in the unit until 2005, when he began renting it out. In 2008, a law firm, representing the association, sent Haddad a notice of delinquency, stating that Haddad owed $803 in unpaid condominium assessments, $40 in late charges, and $55 in legal fees and costs. Haddad notified the firm that he disputed the amount demanded, that he had never missed a monthly dues payment, but that he had been “singled out and charged with various violations” by the management company. Correspondence continued for several months, with the amount owed increasing each month and Haddad contesting the charges. The law firm ultimately recorded a Notice of Lien, which was discharged about six months later. Haddad sued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692, and the Michigan Collection Practices Act, alleging use of a false, deceptive or misleading representation in the collection of a debt, and continuing collection of a disputed debt before verification of the debt. The district court rejected the claims on the ground that the debt was commercial because the unit was rented when collection began. The Sixth Circuit court reversed, holding that an obligation to pay assessments arose from the original purchase and constituted a “debt” under the FDCPA. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment, finding that the firm had properly verified the debt and that the collection efforts were not deceptive or misleading. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, based on failure to properly verify the debt. View "Haddad v. Alexander, Zelmanski, Danner & Fioritto, PLLC" on Justia Law

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The Gallia County (Ohio) Public Defender Commission contracted with the non-profit Corporation for defense attorneys to represent indigent criminal defendants. The Corporation hired Bright, who represented R.G. before Evans, the county’s only trial judge. Bright negotiated a plea agreement, but R.G. hesitated during the plea colloquy. “Mere seconds” later, R.G. informed Bright and Evans that he would take the deal after all. Evans refused. Bright and the prosecutor met with Evans to convince the judge to accept R.G.’s plea. He refused. In pleadings, Bright criticized Evans’s policies as “an abuse of discretion,” “unreasonable,” “arbitrary … unconscionable.” Bright’s language did not include profanity and did not claim ethical impropriety. Evans subsequently contacted the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and filed a grievance against Bright and filed a public journal entry stating that Bright’s motion, although not amounting to misconduct or contempt, had created a conflict. He ordered that Bright be removed from the R.G. case. He then filed entries removing Bright from 70 other felony cases. The Corporation terminated Bright’s employment, allegedly without a hearing or other due process. Bright sued Evans, the Board, the Corporation, and the Commission. The district court concluded that Evans was “not entitled to absolute judicial immunity because his actions were completely outside of his jurisdiction.” The court held that Bright failed to sufficiently plead that the Board or the Commission retaliated against him for exercising his constitutional rights or that liability attached under the Monell doctrine, then dismissed claims against the Corporation. The Sixth Circuit reversed with respect to Evans. While Evans’s conduct was worthy of censure, it does not fit within any exception to absolute judicial immunity. The court affirmed dismissal of claims against the Board and Corporation; the First Amendment offers no protection to an attorney for his speech in court. View "Bright v. Gallia Cnty." on Justia Law

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Plambeck owned two Kentucky chiropractic clinics that treated patients injured in car accidents, including some State Farm customers. All of the treating chiropractors were licensed to practice in Kentucky. Plambeck was not, although he was licensed elsewhere, and did not treat any patients in Kentucky. State Farm assumed that Plambeck had a license because Kentucky law requires chiropractic practitioners and owners of chiropractic clinics to hold one. When State Farm discovered that Plambeck lacked a state license, it stopped paying the clinics and sued Plambeck to recover all payments since 2000. The district court granted summary judgment to State Farm and awarded $557,124.78 in damages. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Kentucky common law claims for recovery of funds mistakenly paid are based on unjust enrichment. Because State Farm and the clinics never had a contractual relationship, the only applicable theory would require State Farm to show that it paid money to the clinics not due “either in law or conscience.” State Farm did not offer such proof. View "State Farm Auto. Ins. Co. v. Newburg Chiropractic" on Justia Law