United States of America et al v. GE Healthcare, Inc. et al
ORDER: This case is dismissed without prejudice to the United States and to the States. This case is dismissed with prejudice as to Relator Patel. The Clerk is directed to CLOSE THE CASE. Signed by Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington on 8/13/2018. (KAK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL.,
GE HEALTHCARE, INC.,
This matter is before the Court pursuant to the Joint
Notice to the Court Regarding Dismissal of the Fourth Amended
Complaint (Doc. # 114), filed on July 30, 2018, by the United
States and Defendant GE Health Care, Inc. As explained below,
this case is dismissed without prejudice to the United States
and to the States.
This case is dismissed with prejudice as
to Relator Patel.
Patel initiated this False Claims Act case on January 17,
2014. (Doc. # 1). He filed the First Amended Complaint (Doc.
# 11) on May 6, 2015, the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. # 17)
on March 9, 2016, the Third Amended Complaint (Doc. # 73) on
August 16, 2017, and the Fourth Amended Complaint (Doc. # 84)
on October 26, 2017.
The stay of the case was lifted on March 27, 2017. (Doc.
The Court held a Case Management Hearing as well as a
Discovery Hearing on July 17, 2017, and the Court entered a
Case Management and Scheduling Order and a Discovery Order on
that date. (Doc. ## 62, 64).
Complaint, and on April 15, 2018, the Court entered an Order
setting a hearing on the Motion to Dismiss to occur on April
20, 2018. (Doc. # 99). Shortly thereafter, on April 16, 2018,
Relator’s counsel filed a Motion seeking to “immediately
withdraw as counsel for Relator.” (Doc. # 100).
terminated the legal representation on April 12, 2018. (Id. at
In addition, Relator’s counsel indicated: “continued
litigation of Relator Patel’s FCA claims could well expose
undersigned counsel to personal liability for GE’s attorneys’
fees, costs and expenses under 28 U.S.C. § 1927, as well as
expose Relator Patel to personal liability for GE’s attorneys’
fees and expenses under 31 U.S.C. § 3730(d)(4).” (Id.).
The United States responded:
solely to suggest, should the Court grant the
Motion, that its Order provide Relator a deadline
by which successor counsel must file a notice of
appearance herein, failing which this action will
be dismissed without prejudice to the United States
and the Relator.
The United States makes this
request because the Relator cannot proceed pro se.
See Timson v. Sampson, 518 F.3d 870, 873-74 (11th
Cir. 2008)(per curiam)(holding that a Relator
cannot proceed pro se in litigating a qui tam
action under the False Claims Act).
(Doc. # 102).
At the hearing held on April 20, 2018, the Court granted
the Motion to Withdraw. (Doc. # 107).
Patel argued that he
needed 90 days in order to secure a new attorney, and GE
argued that only two weeks should be granted for Patel to hire
(Doc. # 109 at 17, 28).
Court granted Relator the full 90-days requested, stating:
“I’ll give you 90 days to find a new lawyer.
give you more than 90 days.
(Id. at 29).
I’m not going to
I will give you up to 90 days.”
The Court further warned: “I am not extending
I’m telling you right now, Mr. Patel.
am I extending that deadline.
They said two weeks and I’m
giving you 90 days because I know the challenges.
do not ask for an extension.
to be no.”
(Id. at 31).
If you do, the answer is going
The Court made it clear: “If I don’t
have a notice of appearance filed by July 20th, on that
following Monday I will do an Order dismissing this case.”
The Court indicated that if the case were to be
dismissed, it would allow counsel to weigh in on whether that
dismissal would be without prejudice to the rights of the
United States. (Id. at 31).
On July 20, 2018, rather than supplying the Court with a
counsel, Patel filed an extension Motion. (Doc. # 111). Patel
sought an additional 90 days to find counsel.
entered an Order denying the Motion on July 23, 2018. (Doc. #
The Court explained that it had already provided an
ample and finite opportunity for Patel to secure counsel and
underscored that Patel was already on notice that no further
extensions would be authorized.
As noted, a relator is not authorized to litigate qui tam
cases pro se. The Court accordingly dismissed the case. (Doc.
# 113 at 5).
The Court, however, authorized the Government
and GE to weigh in on the matter of whether the dismissal
should be with prejudice.
The Court determines that it is appropriate to dismiss
the action without prejudice to the United States and the
states. The purpose of the FCA is to combat fraud perpetrated
against the Government. Vt. Agency of Nat. Resources v. United
States ex rel. Stevens, 529 U.S. 765, 781 (2000). The FCA
encourages “private individuals who are aware of fraud being
perpetrated against the government to bring such information
forward.” Ragsdale v. Rubbermaid, Inc., 193 F.3d 1235, 1237
n.1 (11th Cir. 1999).
And, “the False Claims Act is the
primary law on which the federal government relies to recover
losses caused by fraud.”
McNutt v. Haleyville Med. Supplies,
Inc., 423 F.3d 1256, 1259 (11th Cir. 2005). The Court will not
diminish the Government’s rights in any respect when it comes
to prosecuting any possible fraud perpetrated against it in
this action or any related action.
However, the Court determines that it is the end of the
line for Relator Patel. Dismissal with prejudice as to Patel
is proper. The fact that Patel is on the Fourth Amended
Complaint speaks volumes.
Patel fired his attorney and then
did not select a new attorney within the Court’s firm deadline
of July 20, 2018. And, by proceeding pro se, Relator should
not be placed in a more advantageous position than any other
frequently amended pleadings.
Therefore, the Court finds
that Patel engaged in inexcusable delay. The Court also finds
that dismissal with prejudice is required because no lesser
sanction will suffice.
A dismissal without prejudice would
unfairly allow Patel another bite at the apple and render this
Court’s original deadline of July 20, 2018, to hire new
counsel a mere option, rather than a mandatory Order with the
force of the law behind it.
Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED:
This case is dismissed without prejudice to the United
States and to the States.
This case is dismissed with
prejudice as to Relator Patel.
The Clerk is directed to CLOSE THE CASE.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers in Tampa, Florida, this 13th
day of August, 2018.
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