QUI TAM/WHISTLEBLOWER SETTLEMENT OBTAINED FOR FIRM CLIENT

Press Release: Weiss Zarett Brofman Sonnenklar & Levy, P.C., represents client in Whistleblower Case against New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and Former Program Director of the Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Residency Program at Coney Island Hospital, which pays $1.25 million to Settle Lawsuit Alleging Submission of False Claims to Medicare and Medicaid

Brooklyn, New York, September 24, 2020 – The New York City Health and Hospital Corporation (“HHC”) and Glenn J. Donovan, DPM (“Dr. Donovan”), former Program Director of the Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Residency Program at Coney Island Hospital (“CIH”), have agreed to pay $1.25 million under the False Claims Act (“FCA”) to settle a whistleblower case brought by a podiatrist, Irina Gelman, DPM, who alleged that HHC and Dr. Donovan knowingly violated Medicare and Medicaid program requirements in submitting claims for hospital and professional services, and in operating the PMSR program at CIH.

Dr. Gelman’s “qui tam” (whistleblower) lawsuit against HHC and Dr. Donovan was filed in 2012 in federal district court in Brooklyn. Dr. Gelman was represented by the law firms Farrell Fritz, P.C., Kaiser Law Firm, PLLC and Weiss Zarett Brofman Sonnenklar & Levy P.C.

“Dr. Gelman is a medical professional of utmost integrity who refused, at great personal cost and over the course of eight long years, to look away from what she knew were wrongful billing and operational practices inside the podiatry residency program at Coney Island Hospital,” said Geoffrey R. Kaiser, a whistleblower attorney and Principal of Kaiser Law Firm, PLLC. “She never once wavered in her confidence and belief.” 

The whistleblower complaint alleges that HHC and Donovan: (1) submitted or caused to be submitted claims for payment to Medicare and Medicaid, which violated Medicare and Medicaid program requirements governing payment for inpatient and outpatient hospital services for podiatry at CIH, payment for professional podiatrist services furnished by Dr. Donovan, and payment for the costs of direct and indirect graduate medical education relating to the podiatric and surgical residency program for podiatry residents at CIH; (2) violated standards and requirements established by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education governing the podiatric medicine and surgery residency program at CIH; and (3) submitted or caused to be submitted claims for payment for the costs of graduate medical education and indirect medical education, and for hospital and professional services in which certain podiatry residents at CIH participated, during periods when those podiatry residents lacked a Limited Residency Permit established pursuant to § 7008 of the New York Education Law.

Dr. Gelman served as a podiatric resident, including in the position of Chief Resident, in the PMSR program at CIH from July 2010 until in or about late 2013. As a podiatry resident, Dr. Gelman witnessed the improper billing and operational practices that compelled her to commence her whistleblower lawsuit. 

“This case highlights the importance of people being willing to step forward and expose improper conduct and billing involving federal and state funds,” said Kevin P. Mulry, a litigation partner at Farrell Fritz, “particularly where the allegations involve a troubling lack of training and supervision in one of our public hospitals.”  

“From the moment I met Dr. Gelman, I was singularly impressed by her desire to expose institutional wrongs impacting the public fisc,” notes David A. Zarett, Esq., a founding member of Weiss Zarett Brofman Sonnenklar & Levy, P.C., “and her confidence and self-determination to pursue this issue in court rather than look the other way.” 

An important aspect of the case is that Dr. Gelman and her attorneys litigated it entirely on their own to recover federal and state taxpayer money since the government declined to intervene in the qui tam lawsuit.

“The government is frequently the first to point out that a declination does not mean that a case lacks merit, since there are many reasons that the government may sometimes elect not to intervene in a whistleblower case,” Kaiser said.  “We could not be more pleased to have played a part in prosecuting this important case, and to have recovered significant proceeds for taxpayers.”

$1,030,325.00 of the settlement amount will be paid to the United States for Medicare-related conduct and the federal portion of Medicaid-related conduct. $219,675.00 will be paid to New York State for the state portion of Medicaid-related conduct covered under the settlement agreement. 

The federal False Claims Act and similar state laws offer whistleblowers (frequently called “Relators”) protections and rewards to encourage them to file qui tam lawsuits against individuals and entities that are stealing from the government through Medicare fraud and other types of fraud. The laws also allow whistleblowers and their counsel to independently pursue FCA claims on behalf of the government when the government declines to join a qui tam lawsuit, which is what happened in Dr. Gelman’s case. 

Case citation: United States of America, et al., ex rel. Gelman vs. Glenn J. Donovan, DPM, et al., Case No. 12-CV-5142