$9 million verdict against nursing home thrown out by appeals court

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An Illinois nursing home won a victory last week when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit voided a $9 million verdict.

A jury had said Momence Meadows Nursing Center in Momence, IL, had violated the False Claims Act. Two former Momence Meadows nurses, called the relators in court documents, had filed a whistleblower suit against Momence Meadows in 2004, accusing the facility of problems ranging from infection and pest control to abuse. They also alleged that an administrator hit a resident. The former employees also claimed the facility was guilty of providing “worthless services” and false certification.

But the appeals court ruled that providing poor care is not the same as not providing services.

“To find the services worthless, you do not need to find that the patient received no services at all,” reads the opinion, citing jury instructions.

A jury determined Momence Meadows was guilty of submitting more than 1,700 false claims, and imposed an $11,000 penalty for each claim.

The appeals court said that while a reasonable jury might find some of the claims false, the relators' “false certification theory fails as a matter of law either based on the lack of evidence at trial or on waived theories of materiality (that is, whether the certification is a condition of payment).”

The court also said the relators had been unable to say how many MDS forms contained false certifications.

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