A Total Victory

December 19, 2005
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DETROIT — Two years ago, Metropolitan Health Corp. paid the United States Department of Justice $6.25 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit brought against the company by a former employee. The whistleblower, ex-Metropolitan vice president Mary Scott, was awarded $1.1 million of that amount. Now she has to give $1.6 million back.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen ordered Scott to repay that sum in order to cover legal fees and other costs associated with a companion suit she filed after the multi-million-dollar settlement.

Earlier this year, Enslen dismissed that suit, which accused Metropolitan (now renamed Metro Health) of wrongful dismissal. The Justice Department backed several of Scott's allegations against Metro, but the wrongful dismissal charge was not among them. The accusation stems from Scott's assertion that she was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on illegal Medicare billing activities taking place at Metropolitan. Hospital officials have always maintained that those allegations were completely unfounded, and that they chose to settle the lawsuit to minimize the stress that it placed on the organization. At the time, Metropolitan was in the midst of raising funds for its new "health village" in southern Wyoming

"Even though we'd like to fight the good fight, we have to get this behind us and move on," Metro Health President and CEO Mike Faas told the Business Journal at the time of the settlement. "We don't agree with it. We'll never agree with it."

As such, the hospital felt "vindicated" when Enslen dismissed the suit. Now, on the news of his order to Scott to repay the hospital for the costs of its legal defense, Metro has declared "a total victory."

"Our vindication is now complete," said Doyle Hayes, board chairman of Metro Health. "We were wrongfully accused and the forthright comments and decisive action by Judge Enslen independently and objectively prove our innocence in this case."

Not only were Metro officials pleased, they were also surprised at the sum Judge Enslen required Scott to repay.

"Even when the evidence clearly vindicates the accused, which it certainly does in this case, it is very unusual for a judge to award an almost total repayment of costs," said Metro Health attorney Bruce Neckers. "I am delighted for Metro Health, because it is a fine organization that was clearly wrongly accused."

Scott's attorney, J. Laevin Weiner of the Troy-based firm of Frank, Harron, Weiner & Navarro, did not respond to Business Journal requests for comment.    

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