Category Archives: Litigation Issues

Arbitration Agreements are Alive and Well

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am an advocate for arbitration agreements because of the benefits they offer parties to a dispute.  They can streamline dispute resolution, reduce costs of resolution, make the process more predictable because the parties control the terms, and allow for confidentiality, all while allowing the complainant to have his or her day in court. The availability of arbitration was initially jeopardized by the November 28, 2016 regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), with its eleventh hour attempt to pass regulations prohibiting pre-dispute arbitration agreements in the skilled care setting. …

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False Claims Act: Employment Claims

This third blog on the False Claims Act is a wakeup call to long term care facilities and management companies (“LTCs”) in their training and employment practices.  It is well-known that LTCs have high employee turnover and difficulty finding applicants, especially for certified nursing assistants (“CNAs”).  In response, many LTCs operate in-house training programs to cultivate a pool of qualified CNAs for hiring.  Here’s the rub: LTCs can be sued under the False Claims Act (“FCA”) for providing services through unqualified or underqualified employees and seeking reimbursement for those services. In the U.S. Supreme Court’s Universal Health Services, Inc. v. …

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Employee Surveys: Survey Its Risks First

The long term care industry is known for high staff turnover, which can affect care.  Often, staff separation can burden the available employees with extra duties or shifts.  Residents bond with employees and mourn their separation.  In response to this phenomenon, facilities and management companies have been encouraged to implement employee satisfaction surveys, which raise numerous red flags with employment law defense attorneys. Employers can use employee satisfaction surveys for a multitude of well-intentioned reasons:  to make employees feel heard, to identify areas that need improvement, and to simply improve communication.  A younger workforce that values their voice being heard, …

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How a Justice Neil Gorsuch May Benefit Long Term Care Facilities

As the world knows, Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch is being considered for the vacancy on the United States Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Judge Gorsuch is a conservative jurist who has opined on federal agencies overstepping their mandates.  That perspective may be very helpful to an over-regulated industry, such as long term care.  In October 2016, the long term care industry saw the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) squeeze in a re-write of its regulations just before a change in administration.  Some of those new regulations can be considered …

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False Claims Act: How it is Being Applied and Misapplied in Long Term Care Cases

The False Claims Act (FCA) allows a whistleblower, called a relator, to sue for false statements made in connection with requests for payment to the government. For long term care facilities (LTCs), this typically arises in the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement context.  The false claims could be submitting reimbursement requests for care not provided or care not required.  A claim may also arise when valid reimbursement requests are made, but the facility certifies, when submitting the paperwork, that it has complied with all regulatory requirements and, in fact, it has not.  Intent to defraud is not required, but the facility …

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Corporate Representatives Depositions: How to Defend Against Them

In the December 5, 2016 blog, we discussed what corporate representative depositions (“CRD”) are and why they are used.  This blog addresses defense tactics and the conduct of CRDs. As previously noted, the party requesting the CRD is required to identify with reasonable particularity each of the subject areas for questioning.  The corporation can object to the deposition notice when the subjects are so broad or vague that it is impossible to identify a witness.  Language such as “including, but not limited to” can be struck from a deposition notice for noncompliance with the reasonable particularity requirement.  Notices can also be …

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NLRB Sacks Long Term Care Facility’s Attempt to Avoid Class Actions

In Service Employees International Union v. Montecito Heights Healthcare & Wellness Centre, LP, Case No. 31-CA-129747, the NLRB ruled that a skilled nursing facility’s arbitration provision in its alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) policy requiring its unionized employees to waive their right to bring class actions or to act concertedly violated federal labor law.  If you are non-unionized, do not stop reading here because this ruling has the potential of being applied to non-union workplaces. The nursing facility’s ADR policy expressly prohibited “employees from joining a class action or representative action.” Relying on precedent promulgated by the NLRB in Murphy Oil …

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Corporate Representative Depositions: What They Are and Why They Are Used

Corporate representative depositions (“CRD”) are creatures of federal and state rules permitting parties to lawsuits to take depositions of corporations, associations, organizations and government agencies.  They have been used for decades in products liability cases, but are relative newcomers in long term care litigation. In this section of a two-part blog, I will address the technical aspects of CRDs.  The second blog will cover defending against and conduct of CRDs. When a party to a lawsuit wants to take a CRD, it sends a deposition notice to the corporation stating that it wants to take the corporation’s deposition.  The notice …

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Getting in the Crosshairs of the Fair Housing Act

The dining room has been the cornerstone of family life in America for generations. It was Ronald Reagan who once noted, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”  Many continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) are finding that the balance between maintaining the quintessential dining room experience for their residents and following the Fair Housing Act (FHA) obligations imposed on assisted and independent living facilities to be a daunting task.  In this article, I review the importance of FHA compliance in dining room policies at CCRC facilities. Common area dining rooms are often the most popular gathering locations …

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You Snooze, You Lose: What an Employer Should First Do When Notified of a Legal Action

It is never pleasant to receive notice of a legal proceeding against you, and employers often wait until the last minute to deal with it, or do worse by trying to eliminate relevant evidence.  Employers are reluctant to hire lawyers early because they believe it will be expensive and complicated. So, what should an employer do after it receives notice of a legal action?  Do the three Ps:  hire a Professional, Preserve evidence, and conduct a Preliminary Investigation. Hire a Professional Should an employer hire an attorney if it receives a lawsuit complaint or other notice of a claim? Absolutely, …

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