Author Archives: Michael A. Rosenberg, Esq.

Federal Appeals Court Reinstates PIP Claims Suit Against HCA

A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit against HCA Holdings charging that HCA and three of its Florida hospitals violated Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Practices Act.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit’s April 26 ruling overturned a February 2015 federal court decision in the Middle District of Florida that dismissed the class action. That suit accused three HCA hospitals—Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, North Florida Regional Medical Center of Gainesville and JFK Medical Center in Atlantis—of charging unreasonably high fees for emergency radiological services covered by Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance.

The four Florida residents who filed the complaint received emergency radiological services after motor vehicle accidents. They said they were billed more than other patients who received the same services. “In fact, these fees are up to 65 times higher than the usual and customary fees charged to non-PIP patients for similar radiological services,” according to the complaint.

In one example, the court’s opinion said the hospitals charged between $5,900 and $6,965 for spinal CT scans on the plaintiffs. The ruling said Medicare rates for spinal CT scans are between $213 and $220, and rates for uninsured patients go up to $3,454.

The complaint said the exorbitant rates caused the residents’ $10,000 PIP coverage to be exhausted prematurely. The complaint also accuses HCA of breach of contract as the four Floridians entered into a Condition of Admission contract that required their accounts to be paid at the hospitals’ price lists. All four plaintiffs said they weren’t provided such a price list at the time of their treatments.

Only one of the four plaintiffs was allowed to go forward with a suit against a single hospital in the 2015 ruling by U.S. District Judge James Moody in the Middle District of Florida. Moody’s ruling was overturned by a unanimous Eleventh Circuit panel consisting of Judges Beverly B. Martin, Julie E. Carnes and Senior Judge R. Lanier Anderson III. The suit was originally filed July 2014 in the Southern District of Florida.

 

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Filed under HCA, Health care, Insurance, Insurance Defense, Insurance Fraud, Middle District of Florida, Personal Injury Protection, PIP/No Fault

South Carolina Couple Sues Uber for Miami Beach Crash Aftermath

The Miami Herald reported on March 14, 2016, that Dr. Richard Day and wife Jean Day filed a lawsuit against Uber after being involved in a car accident.  Back in December, the couple traveled to Miami from South Carolina for a medical conference when they ordered an Uber. According to a police report and the lawsuit, the driver, Ingrid Parra, crashed when leaving the Eden Roc hotel in South Beach after failing to yield to oncoming traffic. While Dr. Day’s injuries included a broken leg, his wife received massive brain injuries that will require multiple surgeries.

This is the latest lawsuit against ride- sharing services involved in Miami Dade that points to drivers paying more attention to their smartphones than the road. This comes at a time when the county commission is considering legislation to regulate businesses such as Uber and Lyft.

The popularity of these ride-sharing services has skyrocketed in South Florida and across the country in recent years, but not without controversy. Back in November, Lyft was hit with a lawsuit by a family of a 29 year old woman after being thrown off her motorcycle when colliding with a ride share driver in Wynwood. Also, in January, Uber was sued by the relatives of a Miami Dade College student who was killed in a fiery crash in Kendall. The Uber driver was not faulted in this incident.

The predominance of ride- sharing services such as Uber and Lyft have given rise to fierce resistance from taxi drivers as well as local governments who struggle to legalize their procedures. Opposition to ride sharing services, claim Uber drivers violate vehicle for-hire rules, but the popularity has put enormous pressure on the commissioners. Broward County initially required fingerprinting the drivers but backed down when Uber threatened to leave the market last summer. After a Michigan Uber driver was arrested and charged with fatally shooting six people, Miami Dade commissioners have threatened to impose the fingerprinting requirement, which they will be voting on in May.

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Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2008), Transportation Network Companies

Central Florida Personal Injury Protection Fraud Investigation Comes to an End

On August 13, 2015, The Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) announced multiple arrests related to a large scale personal injury protection fraud scheme across the Central Florida region.

According to the Orlando Business Journal, DIF and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) partnered to investigate two clinics, First Medical Rehab of Bradenton and Kirkman Family Chiropractic Care in Orlando. Their investigation led to the arrest of five people, arrest warrants issued for three additional people, and three related arrests in the Fort Myers area. Insurance carriers and former patients raised allegations of possible illegal activity happening at these two personal injury clinics.

The Kirkman Family Chiropractic investigation disclosed their plot of bypassing clinic licensure requirements set by the Agency for Health Care Administration. Co-conspirators solicited licensed chiropractors to serve as straw owners, or owners on paper only because licensed health care professionals can operate clinics without the necessity of an additional clinic license. To date, more than $100,000 in fraudulent claims have been paid by multiple insurance carriers.

The charges varied depending on each individual’s alleged role which included: patient brokering, conspiracy to commit patient brokering, false and fraudulent insurance claims, solicitation, grand theft, organized scheme to defraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. All individuals arrested, if convicted can face anywhere from five to 30 years in prison as well as face fines as large as $10,000.

Click here for the full story.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud, Personal Injury Protection

Century Woman charged with Auto Insurance Fraud

The Florida Department of Financial Services Insurance Fraud Division charged Trisha Michelle Milstead a resident of Century, FL with one felony count of insurance fraud. Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille stated that on September 8, 2014 Milstead was involved in a vehicle accident, but at the time her vehicle policy had lapsed for non-payment. She then reinstated her insurance policy on September 9, signing a statement that there had been no previous damage during the lapsed time period.  Two days after the policy was reinstated she filed a claim for the accident and damage associated.

Trisha Milstead remains in the Escambia County Jail with bond set at $10,000 and is scheduled for an arraignment hearing next month.

Click here for news article.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee (FIFEC) Conference

Roig Lawyers attorneys and healthcare policy advisor will speak at 23rd annual Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee (FIFEC) Conference on June 12, 2015 in Orlando, FL.  Nelson C. Bellido, Dennis La Rosa, Miguel Roura, and Diego Arredondo will present “Mechanisms Available to Adjusters During Review for Regulatory and Compliance Issues”.  The presentation will focus on recent developments in the law, insurance adjuster review process for regulatory compliance issues, administrative regulation and the relationship to PIP under §627.732(11), and PIP amendments and licensing issues.

FIFEC is a non-profit corporation comprised of special investigative unit investigators, law enforcement personnel and dedicated individuals whose purpose is to organize and present an annual statewide educational seminar related to deterring, detecting, investigating and prosecuting insurance fraud. FIFEC is proud of its mission to provide insurance fraud education and training by giving grants to the law enforcement and criminal justice community that attend what is now known as the annual FIFEC Conference.

About Roig Lawyers

Roig Lawyers is a multi-practice Florida Litigation firm with an unfaltering growing presence in the legal market celebrating 15 years of service, with more than 100 attorneys in 6 offices in Deerfield Beach, Miami, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Tampa, and Tallahassee. Roig Lawyers offers unparalleled legal representation in the areas of commercial litigation, construction, corporate law, real estate, banking and finance, labor and employment, and all phases of insurance defense litigation.

For more information about Roig Lawyers, visit www.roiglawyers.com.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Jacksonville PIP Fraud Scheme Involved Staged Auto Accidents

Roxana Suarez La Rosa was arrested for PIP fraud, according to an April 28 release by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud.

Suarez La Rosa owned and operated the Saint Jose Injury Center in Jacksonville that was behind a string of staged auto accidents, according to witnesses. Crash participants were asked to sign for medical services they never received, which were then billed to insurance companies. More than 50 insurance claims were generated in the alleged scam. Billing amounts were not disclosed.

If convicted, Suarez La Rosa faces up to 50 years in prison on racketeering and fraud charges. Additional cases against the medical clinic are pending.

The Office of the State Attorney in the 4th Judicial Circuit of Florida, which covers Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties, is handling the case.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Broward PIP Fraud Scam Leads to Four Arrests

Four Florida residents were arrested on April 1 for participating in a Broward County scheme to defraud insurance companies by filing false PIP claims.

The defendants filed eight claims concerning a Mercedes that belonged to one of them, according to a statement from the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud.

Claims alleged that the Mercedes had been run off the road. It was ultimately determined that only one of the eight claims was lawfully made and that the other seven were filed in furtherance of the defendants’ scam.

According to the statement, the four individuals arrested are:

  • Ermes Falero, Boca Raton
  • Gary Lee, Boca Raton
  • Javier Navarro, Miami
  • Michael Rumain, Point Pleasant

Falero, with Lee’s help, is alleged to have organized a scheme by which he and Lee would falsify documentation and use that false documentation to file fraudulent insurance claims. The remaining two defendants are accused of making fraudulent statements supporting Falero’s and Lee’s false insurance claims.

Falero, the scam’s main organizer, faces 150 years in prison. Lee faces up to 90 years, and the defendants who made the false statements each face 15 years in prison.

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Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2012), Insurance Fraud

Florida CFO Stresses Insurance Fraud Prevention Efforts

As Fraud Prevention Month came to a close, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced that the Florida Department of Financial Services remains focused on raising awareness of insurance fraud and its impact on the lives of Floridians. He also reassured citizens that his office will continue to combat this unlawful activity.

Throughout the country, the overall price tag for fraud is more than just a dollar amount in a budget report. The estimated $80 billion annual cost of fraud poses potential fiscal drains not only to insurance companies but to law-abiding insurance customers who in turn have to pay higher premiums.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), auto insurance fraud, homeowners’ insurance fraud, and workers’ compensation fraud make up the three most prevalent types of insurance fraud. In addition, personal injury protection, or PIP, fraud accounts for nearly 50 percent of all fraud referrals in Florida.

The Florida Legislature passed HB119 in 2012 to reduce PIP fraud and yield savings for consumers. Florida auto policyholders have saved $65 since passage, according to the Atwater release, resulting from a statewide decrease in PIP fraud of 13.6 percent.

Also, the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) has helped bring fraudulent offenders to justice by actively pursuing these criminals through their investigations. Since 2011, when CFO Atwater first took office, DIF personnel have made a significant impact in the fight against fraud:

  • 5,708 insurance fraud arrests made
  • 4,485 fraud convictions stemming from these arrests
  • 96% conviction rate in partnership with local law enforcement and the State Attorney’s Offices

The Department’s Division of Consumer Services also conducts a consumer educational program, notes Atwater, to help Floridians from becoming fraud victims. Consumers who become aware of potential fraud can report it using an Insurance Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445, or on the webpage www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Fraud. An Anti-Fraud Reward Program is in place to award individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.

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Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2012), Insurance Fraud

Tampa Area $40K Tow Truck Fraud Leads to Four Arrests

On March 25, 2015, the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud announced the arrest of four Tampa Bay area men on charges of insurance fraud.  The men reportedly collected more than $40,000 in insurance payments after causing intentional damage to two tow trucks owned by Jimmy’s Towing and Recovery (Jimmy’s).

Leonard Bosi, 50, of Dunedin, Andrew Gentile, 25, of Palm Harbor, Edgar Gentile, 42, of Seminole, and Matthew Gentile, 23, of Dunedin face two charges each of insurance fraud over $25,000.

The first of two events occurred in Clearwater on June 17, 2014 when one of the tow trucks was involved in an accident. After being returned to Jimmy’s, the truck was reportedly hit by another truck multiple times until it was rendered inoperable.  An insurance claim was paid to Jimmy’s and shared among the four suspects.

Several days later on June 20, 2014, a second tow truck from Jimmy’s caught on fire while out on assignment. The flames were extinguished by an onlooker, and the truck was returned to Jimmy’s. Upon its return to the shop, additional damage was reportedly inflicted on the engine to the point that it could not be repaired.  An insurance claim was again paid to Jimmy’s and distributed among the four suspects.

The suspects were released on $10,000 bond each on the same day as their arrest. They face jail terms of up to 15 years.

The case will be prosecuted by the office of the Sixth Judicial Circuit State Attorney.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

The 11th Judicial Circuit Court Issues Key Ruling in Health Care Clinic Licensure Case

On March 10, 2015, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County issued a ruling in favor of Imperial Fire & Casualty Insurance in a mandatory licensing (House Bill 119) case. The Court found that the charges submitted for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits to Imperial Fire & Casualty, to be unlawful and thus, noncompensable pursuant to Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law.

Imperial Fire & Casualty issued a policy of automobile insurance to the Insured under which the Defendant, Magic Hands Solutions Inc. sought payment. Magic Hands Solutions operated as a medical clinic and allegedly rendered medical treatment to the Insured who was injured in an automobile accident. Subsequently, Magic Hands Solutions submitted charges for payment of PIP benefits to Imperial Fire & Casualty. Magic Hands Solutions was advised that the claim submitted for PIP benefits was not payable because the clinic was not properly licensed pursuant to Section 627.736, Florida Statutes (2013).

In 2012, the Legislature required mandatory licensing for all clinics holding an exempt status, whether by issuance of Certificate of Exemption or self-determined, in order for clinics to receive reimbursement pursuant to the “PIP Statute.” Hence, a clinic must be licensed under Part X, Chapter 400 to receive reimbursement for PIP benefits, unless it qualifies for an exception listed in Section 627.736(5)(h).

The Court found that the Magic Hands Solutions being wholly owned by a license massage therapist does not qualify for any of the exceptions delineated in §627.736(5)(h)(1)-(6) and was required to obtain a Health Care Clinic license as a condition precedent to receiving reimbursement of PIP benefits.

As a result of Magic Hands Solutions’ failure to obtain a Health Care Clinic License, the Court found that the charges submitted were unlawful and thus, noncompensable pursuant to Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law and that Imperial Fire & Casualty.

Imperial Fire & Casualty Insurance Company vs. Magic Hands Solution Inc., Case No. 2014-2211 CC 24 (01) (Fla. 11th Circuit March 10, 2015).

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Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2008)