Wheeling Hospital filed a federal lawsuit against former executive vice president Louis Longo. Longo is accused of breach of fiduciary duty and abuse of process.
According to the complaint, Longo filed false claims against the hospital in a whistleblower lawsuit but was only trying to obtain a “quick and plentiful” settlement. The federal government joined Longo’s whistleblower lawsuit in December 2018.
Longo’s lawsuit claims the hospital improperly paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to doctors. It also alleges the hospital compensated several physicians far above fair market value in return for referrals. It also states the hospital committed unethical acts in an effort to gain “monopolistic power and dominating market share” in the Ohio Valley region.
Originally, Longo has worked for the hospital as a partner and director with Deloitte, which was the firm contracted to handle auditing and compliance issues. He was then hired directly by the hospital as an executive to oversee hospital operations and physician engagements. With Deloitte, he’d been in charge of identifying risks of fraud and reporting fraud and fraud risks to the hospital board. The hospital claims that at no time while he was working in a contractor relationship did he report any incidences of fraud or risk for fraud, nor did he report any concerns once he was hired directly by the hospital.
The hospital responded to the website calling it “baseless,” and issuing a statement that said it expected all staff members to conduct themselves with “honor and integrity.” The statement explained the countersuit and accused Longo of dishonest conduct and said the hospital would “vigorously defend” itself against Long’s fraudulent claims.
Whistleblower lawsuits are a specific type of lawsuit filed when an individual believes unethical or illegal actions are occurring within an organization or business. Federal and state laws are in place to protect those who are reporting illegal activities and whistleblowers can be eligible for receiving financial compensation as a result of their taking action.
There are different types of situations in which a whistleblower lawsuit would be appropriate, but they are extremely common in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries – the case with the Longo Wheeling Hospital lawsuit. Other industries in which whistleblower lawsuits are common include the financial sector, the automotive industry, and in industries that expose the public to environmental hazards.
Statistically, the government rarely intervenes. They only step in in about 20 percent of whistleblower lawsuits. This is not to say that the lawsuit cannot proceed, it just does not have any type of government backing and the individual is responsible for assembling his or her own legal team.
In order for the government to step in, it requires the case have “extensive, detailed evidence” that there is systemic fraud.
The law provides for special protections for those who have filed whistleblower claims. The individual or individuals filing the claims might be entitled to back and forward pay, as well as reinstatement in their job and damages for the pain and suffering they endured as a result of the retaliation. The government rarely investigates the whistleblower’s conduct, but there are occasions when if the whistleblower was initially involved in the fraudulent activity, immunity will be offered in exchange for cooperation.
The US Department of Justice joined Longo’s suit in December after it conducted an investigation and determined the lawsuit was warranted. The details of the lawsuit were also unsealed and made public that month after the government filed notice with the federal district court in Pittsburgh that it would intervene.