SAN DIEGO – A drug testing company failed in its bid to have a judge toss a lawsuit filed by a former employee alleging he was fired after reporting unethical practices.
U.S. District Judge M. James Lorenz of the Southern District of California wrote the court order denying Millennium Lab's motion for summary judgement.
Former sales manager Ryan Uehling filed the lawsuit against his former employer, claiming he was fired in retaliation for expressing his concerns over the legality of the company’s 2011 sales practices. According to court documents, Millennium, who provides urine sample cups with test strips to detect drugs in a patient’s system, told sales employees to begin pushing for healthcare providers to do at least 12 tests per customer. Lorenz stated that “Millennium, as a Medicare Part B biller, harvested a substantial amount of revenue by billing the federal government for laboratory testing performed in accordance with custom profiles that did not account for individual patients’ needs," and that “the purpose appears to have been a desire to increase profit margins, as Millennium earns more per sample by billing for more tests.”
Millennium settled with the government in the Massachusetts District Court for $256 million after Uehling had gone to the government with evidence that “Millennium was submitting false claims." Uehling’s retaliation claims were moved to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, where Millennium moved for summary judgment. Millennium claimed Uehling had not provided evidence under the False Claims Act that the company knew about the issue or that there was an “engagement in activity protected by the FCA.”
Lorenz dismissed the arguments made under the False Claims Act, stating that “if plaintiff complained of fraud on the government directly to defendant’s president, it follows that defendant would have been aware of plaintiff’s engagement in protected activity when it fired him.”
Lorenz noted that Uehling had good reason for choosing his words carefully, stating in a footnote that “plaintiff has presented a plausible explanation as to why he used the latter formulation. In approaching defendant’s president with allegations of fraud on the government, plaintiff was “scared to death” that the conversation U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, case number 3:16-cv-02812-L-MDD