Expert testimony scrutinized in Cleveland, Tenn.-based Life Care Centers fraud case

Expert testimony scrutinized in Cleveland, Tenn.-based Life Care Centers fraud case

May 14th, 2014 by Todd South in Local Regional News

Life Care Centers of America, based in Cleveland, Tenn., is being investigated over allegations of Medicare fraud.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Federal prosecutors and defense lawyers for nursing home giant Life Care Centers of America sparred Tuesday over whether a statistical report taken from company records will be admitted if the multimillion-dollar fraud case goes to trial.

The Cleveland, Tenn.-based company denies U.S. Department of justice allegations that it has bilked taxpayers out of millions of dollars in Medicare payments for unnecessary therapies performed at its 225 facilities.

Whistleblowers in Florida and Tennessee nursing homes alerted investigators to the practice as early as 2008. It wasn't until 2012 that Times Free Press coverage forced the court records to be opened. The case has proceeded with a trial date not likely until late 2015 or 2016.

On Tuesday lawyers for both sides argued whether a report by a prosecution-hired expert of 400 records from 82 of the company's facilities held to federal court rules related to expert testimony.

Eric Alexander, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney for Life Care, argued to U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice that the ways the records were sampled and the report made were invalid and can't be considered accurate for court proceedings.

Lead prosecutor Elizabeth Tonkin said the sample and the report will be used as evidence of the estimated losses and total number of false claims made by Life Care.

The company's attorneys have argued throughout multiple hearings that the use of a statistical sample at its core is not an accurate way to proceed with the case. Tonkin has argued that it is a fair way to understand how widespread the alleged fraud is within the company.

Mattice said Tuesday he would issue a written ruling on the report sometime after the arguments.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.