Court rules in favor of medical providers on issues in fraud/malpractice suit
Several months ago it was widely reported that Dr. Yasser Awaad, working with the Oakwood Healthcare System, was falsely diagnosing children with epilepsy and seizure disorder in order to enhance his billings. Amber Lucas and the parents of numerous other children sued Awaad and Oakwood, seeking damages for fraud, medical malpractice and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. This week, the Court of Appeals dismissed the fraud and emotional distress claims, overturning the decisions of the lower court. Among other holdings, the panel concluded that:
1. Patients cannot pursue a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against health care providers, as they may only be sued for medical malpractice in accordance with the restrictions on malpractice claims. The Court determined that this rule applied, even if the wrongdoing of the defendants related to their billing and business practices and not to medical care or diagnosis.
2. The Court held that the health care defendants could not be accused of fraud, "silent fraud" or conspiracy to defraud because "false communications" to a patient's parents are not fraud.
3. The Court held that the Defendants' Affidavits of Meritorious Defense were sufficient and effective because they alleged that the Defendants' fraudulent behavior in systematically mis-diagnosing epilepsy did not cause harm to the patients.
Like banks, apparently, medical care providers are so important to our economy and culture that they are no longer subject to the normal rule of law.