Defamation Lawsuit Alleges Retaliation by Hospital Against Staff Doctor
Dr. Hadi Hakki, who was the chief of surgery at Northside Hospital, filed a lawsuit in 2012 against Galencare, Inc., which operates the hospital, and alleged that the hospital misrepresented statistics related to their surgical success. Dr. Hakki alleged that in 2007 Northside Hospital made a number of false reports to the Society of Thoracic Surgery (“STS”) about cardiac surgery mortality, morbidity, complications and other data.
Dr. Hakki claimed that the hospital was using this data to obtain higher reimbursements for hospital services from Medicare. When Dr. Hakki brought this to the attention of hospital officials, they allegedly threatened to “ruin his career” and continued filing false reports. Hakki was reportedly undeterred and blew the whistle on the hospital and brought the alleged fraud to the attention of governmental agencies, including the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, which regulates all hospitals in the state. At this point, Hakki claims that the Chief Medical Officer for the hospital told him that they were directed to take “whatever action necessary” to destroy his career. According to Hakki, this included revoking his staff privileges and filing more false reports, this time about Hakki, to government agencies. Hakki, also claims that several officials at the hospital asked him to voluntarily relinquish his privileges on the threat that they would report him to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).
Northside Hospital Allegedly Makes Good on its Threats
Hakki’s lawsuit alleges that the hospital made good on its threats and knowingly submitted false and slanderous information about him to the board of directors. He claims that, based on this false information, the board moved to revoke his staff privileges and force him out of the hospital. The hospital then filed an adverse action report with the NPDB, according to Hakki.
Hakki Files a Lawsuit
Hakki filed a lawsuit against the hospital accusing them of retaliation and making false statements, but the hospital countered by claiming that they were immune to such an accusation because Hakki failed to explicitly plead fraud in his complaint. The trial court sided with the hospital, and Hakki’s case was dismissed with prejudice. Hakki, however, filed an appeal, and the court of appeals reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Florida Statutes 395.0191(7) and 395.0193(5) provide that licensed facilities are given immunity from injunctive relief or redress against them arising from disciplinary proceedings unless there exists a direct allegation of fraud. In Hakki’s case, the district court of appeal determined that the alleged fraud on the part of the hospital was properly pled, which is why the court of appeal reversed the ruling.
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