Watson v. King-Vassel, No. 12-3671 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
After researching qui tam actions and meeting with an attorney, Dr. Watson placed an ad in a Sheboygan newspaper soliciting minor Medicaid patients who had been prescribed certain psychotropic medications. The ad referred to participation in a possible Medicaid fraud suit and sharing in any recovery. Meyer responded and entered into an agreement with Watson, who never met Meyer’s child, but obtained the child’s records by using an authorization stating that Meyer was requesting the records “[f]or the purpose of providing psychological services and for no other purpose whatsoever….” Watson searched the records for “off‐label” prescriptions written for a purpose that has not been approved by the FDA. Off‐label use is common, but generally not paid for by Medicaid. In the child’s records, Watson identified 49 prescriptions that he alleged constituted false claims to the U.S. government. The district court rejected Watson’s suit under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C.3729(a)(1)(A), reasoning that expert testimony was necessary to prove essential elements of the case and Watson had not named experts. While characterizing Watson’s tactics as “borderline fraudulent,” the Seventh Circuit reversed, citing the district court’s “overly rigid” view of the causation and knowledge elements of the claim.