Absher v. Momence Meadows Nursing Ctr., Inc., No. 13-1936 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Two nurses, formerly employed by Momence, alleged that, during their employment at Momence, they uncovered evidence that Momence knowingly submitted "thousands of false claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs” in violation of the False Claims Act (FCA) and Illinois Whistleblower Reward and Protection Act. They filed a qui tam action on behalf of the government and alleged that Momence retaliated against them for reporting its fraud. A jury awarded the government more than $3 million in compensatory damages and imposed about $19 million in fines for the qui tam claims. Pursuant to the FCA, the compensatory damages were trebled to more than $9 million. The district court set aside the fines as violating the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment. The jury also awarded the nurses $150,000 and $262,320, respectively, on their retaliation claims. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Both claims failed as a matter of law. Rejecting claims of “worthless services” and false certification, the court stated that, at best, a reasonable jury might be able to say that some of Momence’s claims were false, but that is not enough to satisfy the burden of proof. The employment of one nurse was not terminated, the other’s employment was terminated for an unrelated matter.