Every once in a while – okay maybe more frequently than that – I realize that I have missed a court decision on an issue I have been following. Most recently, I had been intrigued by the Sixth Circuit panel decisions in Brown v. Cassens Transport Co. (Brown II) and Jackson v. Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc. that had upheld Michigan workers’ compensation claimants’ rights to file federal RICO claims against their employers, their employers’ third party administrators and physicians who had conducted independent medical examinations on the theory that the defendants had conspired to unlawfully deny or terminate their workers’ compensation benefits. I had also noted that at least one other such case had been filed in federal court in Arizona.
My initial reaction was that these were terrible decisions that would enable any workers’ compensation claimant who was dissatisfied with a decision relating to his claim to challenge that decision in federal court. That reaction was further intensified when it occurred to me that the shoe could just as easily go on the other foot – that employers could file similar actions against an employee, his doctor and his representative, based on theories claiming that they conspired with each other to create or perpetuate a fraudulent claim. I wondered whether such a lawsuit could be viable in Ohio, which also is situated in the Sixth Circuit. What a horrible intrusion into a state’s workers’ compensation system this would create….
Fortunately, the Sixth Circuit’s September 24, 2013, en banc decision in the Jackson case relieves my concerns for the time being. In Jackson, two Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., employees sued their employer, Sedgwick (its workers’ compensation third-party administrator), and a physician who had examined them both, claiming that they had “engaged in a fraudulent scheme involving the mail . . . to avoid paying benefits to injured employees” in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (“RICO”). In short, both plaintiffs claimed that Sedgwick, on behalf of Coca-Cola, scheduled them for examinations with a physician who they claimed was a “a doctor ‘who could be relied upon to lie for defendants and write a report stating a claimant did not have a work related disability regardless of the true facts.’” Then, the plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that Coca-Cola and Sedgwick relied on the physician’s reports to either deny or terminate benefits in their claims.
Continue Reading Sixth Circuit En Banc Decision Rejects RICO Claim for Alleged Workers’ Compensation Fraud