Court shuts down provider's counterclaim against FCA whistleblower

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A federal court dismissed a healthcare company's counterclaim against a former employee and False Claims Act whistleblower on Monday. The judge ruled that the whistleblower's disclosure of HIPAA-protected information was justified in filing his claim.

Matthew Cieszynski, a former employee of Illinois-based cardiac monitoring provider LifeWatch Services Inc., accused the company of violating federal regulations by using unlicensed workers in India to perform monitoring services. In filing his whistleblower claim, Cieszynski shared documents containing the protected health information of 52,000 LifeWatch patients with the government.

LifeWatch countered Cieszynski's claims, saying he violated two employment agreements by disclosing the HIPAA-protected information since some of it was not relevant to government healthcare programs.

In his May 9 ruling, Judge Sidney Schenkier for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said the information disclosed by Cieszynski didn't go beyond what was necessary to support his FCA claims and illustrate the potential fraud. Cieszynski's sharing of the information also was valid, Schenkier said, because it's unlikely he knew how much information the government needed to pursue a false claims case.

“[Cieszynski] did not disclose the information to anyone other than the government and his attorney, did not disclose attorney-client information, and did not disclose trade secret information to LifeWatch's competitors,” Schenkier wrote. “[Cieszynski] did not go so far that he has exposed himself to defendant's breach of contract action."