Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Sunday, January 22, 2017
US District Court holds anti-SLAPP statute does not apply to insurers' claim that law office participated in fraudulent scheme
Two insurers, Metropolitan and Commerce, brought suit against chiropractic companies and a law firm, alleging a scheme to defraud the insurers. According to the insurers, the chiropractors billed them for chiropractic treatment that was unreasonable and unnecessary, was wrongfully and grossly exaggerated, was not rendered at all in some cases, was rendered by unlicensed personnel, was rendered to non-injured body areas, and was rendered for fabricated symptoms and injuries.
The insurers alleged that the law firm unlawfully recruited and solicited patients insured by the insurers, referred those patients to the chiropractors for treatment, and submitted and prosecuted false and inflated claims for insurance benefits using false chiropractic records.
The insurers alleged that they incurred millions of dollars in damages as a result of the false claims.
The law firm moved to dismiss under the anti-SLAPP statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231 §59H. That statute makes it unlawful to sue someone for petitioning the government, which, under the Massachusetts version of the statute, includes use of the court system. A defendant who prevails on a special motion to dismiss under the anti-SLAPP statute is entitled to attorney's fees.
The law firm asserted in its motion to dismiss that all of the claims against it must be dismissed because they are based on petitioning activities -- namely, use of the courts to bring claims against the insurers.
In Metropolitan Property Casualty Ins. Co. v. Savin Hill Family Chiropractic, 2016 WL 7469711 (D. Mass.), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts held that the anti-SLAPP statute did not apply because the firm failed to meet the burden of proving that the claims against it were based on petitioning activities alone and that there was no substantial basis for the claims aside from the petitioning activities.