A woman who claimed she was the whistleblower who alerted the federal government to health care fraud at a suburban hospice facility, costing Medicare millions of dollars, has brought a malpractice action against the lawyer whose bad advice she blames for costing her the reward she believes she was due under the law for reporting the misdeeds of her former employer.
On May 27, Charlene Sligting, who formerly worked at Passages Hospice in Lisle in DuPage County, filed her lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against attorney Mark Baiocchi, of Naperville.
According to the lawsuit, Sligting approached Baiocchi in early 2010 “seeking advice and counsel” on how to handle information she believed demonstrated her employer had filed false claims with Medicare, obtaining payment for services hospice patients didn’t need and “falsifying the length of time patients were in need of and receiving hospice services, falsifying records on the number of volunteer hours, falsifying physician authorizations for extended hospice and creating documents to mislead governmental audits.”
Baiocchi then agreed to represent her in an action filed under seal against Passages, the complaint said.
Sligting said she resigned from Passages at Baiocchi’s guidance, and, in following years, heeded his purported advice to be patient and eventually persuading her “there was no merit in the claim against Passages.”
However, the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014 charged Seth Gillman, one of the company’s owners and founders, on fraud and conspiracy to over-bill Medicare through false claims worth millions of dollars. Charges were also brought against three others affiliated with Passages.
All of the charges centered on allegations similar to those Sligting said she first leveled in her sealed action.
Gillman and the others pleaded guilty to the charges in federal court and were sentenced in early 2016.
Sligting said she learned of the criminal case against Gillman and the other Passages employees in late 2015. She said she also learned “a settlement was imminent” under the False Claims Act, and in January 2016, also discovered Baiocchi “had not named her as a whistleblower entitled to compensation under” the federal law.
Sligting said Baiocchi breached his fiduciary duty to her by not including her in the complaint against Passages, not allowing her to “present evidence that she was the original source of information” for the case against Passages, and not giving her the opportunity to hire other attorneys to take up her case.
Had Baiocchi properly advised her, Sligting alleged she “would have received monies” allocated through the settlement deal with Passages, the lawsuit said.
Sligting asked the court to order Baiocchi to pay her unspecified damages.
She is represented in the action by attorneys Elliot R. Schiff and Thomas G. Gorman, of Schiff Gorman LLC, of Chicago.