Tag Archives: health care lawyer

Mentally Ill Inmate Gouges Out Own Eyes, Sues County for Negligence

5571 darken lighten center w skin softBy Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D.

On December 7, 2017, a mentally ill inmate in the Boulder, Colorado, jail sued a sheriff in federal court, claiming that the jail staff failed to stop the man from using his fingers to gouge out his own eyes after several prior attempts to do so. The inmate sued him and 21 other jail employees in U.S. District Court in Denver. He claimed that he blinded himself because they failed to heed warning signs to treat his mental illness, according to the civil lawsuit filed by his Denver civil rights attorneys.

Inmate Negligence.

The inmate, who is now blind and suffers from deep, severe schizophrenic psychosis, is seeking monetary awards for negligence, including compensatory damages for physical and psychological injuries including pain and emotional distress and humiliation. He suffers from auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions and paranoia, according to the lawsuit.

On December 17, 2016, the inmate curled up in a ball in his cell with fingernails that hadn’t been cut for six weeks and plucked both of his eyes “completely out of his head,” the lawsuit says. The lawsuit also says jailers failed to respond to a series of precursor events in which the inmate said he would gouge his eyes out. In early 2016, he banged his head into his toilet, breaking seven teeth, the lawsuit says. Additionally, there were several prior attempts by the inmate to committed suicide.

Shane McGurk, the jail’s mental health program director, sought an emergency court order to get him psychiatric treatment. The judge ordered deputies to immediately take him to get psychiatric treatment. However, according to the lawsuit, the orders were ignored and the “Defendants’ willful and deliberate indifference to the inmate’s serious medical needs directly led to his self-mutilation, head and vertebrae injury, broken teeth and ultimately, to his permanent blindness.”

The jail failed to properly train officers in how to care for a mentally ill inmate, the lawsuit said.

This is not the first time an inmate or their families have sued for improper care during incarceration. Click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case.

It is an unfortunate reality that our society today tends to ignore citizens with true and severe mental health illnesses, choosing to treat them as criminals, instead. Instead of allocating funds for treatment, acting in a preventative manner, it prefers to spend the money for prisons and paying for incarceration. This is a complete shame. This poor, mentally ill individual suffers the consequences. Unfortunately, the officials who run our jails and prisons also suffer by being the treater of last resort, which is grossly unfair to them, as well. Our jail and prison officials should have a “safety relief valve” available to them where they can divert individuals who have been incarcerated because of their mental illnesses and obtain appropriate treatment for them.

Providing Representation For All Health Care Professionals.

Our firm has represented a number of nurses, physicians and other health care professionals who provide care in jails and prisons, as well as in other government facilities and institutions. We routinely represent physicians, nurses and advance practice nurses who work for the VA, the Department of Health, the county, the military, the Indian Health Service and other government agencies. Although government employees may have personal immunity from civil suits, they are not protected against termination and other employment actions, complaints against their professional license, National Practitioner Data Bank reports, and other types of administrative actions; our firm represents them in all of these. The government is not going to represent you in these. Call us at the first sign of a legal problem.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Mitchell, Kirk. “Mentally Ill inmate sues for negligence.” The Denver Post. (December 8, 2017). Web.

Mitchell, Kirk. “Psychotic Boulder jail inmate gouges out own eyes, sues county for negligence.” The Denver Post. (December 7, 2017). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

KeyWords: Legal representation for government physicians, legal representation for government nurses, legal representation for mental health professionals, mental health defense attorney, legal representation of mental health counselors, mental health counselor defense attorney, legal defense of professional licensure cases, legal representation for Board of Nursing cases, legal representation for Board of Medicine cases, Board of Nursing investigation defense attorney, legal representation for peer review, legal representation for administrative actions, legal representation for health care professionals, legal representation for psychiatrists, psychiatrists defense attorney, defense counsel for mental health professionals, health care lawyer, The Health Law Firm reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.


CRIMINAL LAW: Search and Seizure—Probable Cause for Search in Light of—Enactment of Medical Marijuana Law

The guest author of this article is Mark Rieber, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group.

In Commonwealth v. Canning, 28 N.E.3d 1156 (Mass. 2015), the court held as a matter of first impression that with the Commonwealth’s new medical marijuana law (“the Act”) in effect, if the police seek a warrant to search a property where they suspect an individual is cultivating or possesses marijuana, then they must first offer information sufficient to provide probable cause to believe that the individual is not properly registered under the Act to possess or cultivate the suspected substance. The court rejected the Commonwealth’s argument that any cultivation of marijuana remained illegal even under the Act. That argument further asserted that to the extent that the Act permits a limited class of properly licensed or registered persons to grow marijuana, the existence of a license or registration is an affirmative defense for a defendant charged with unlawful cultivation to raise at trial—the Commonwealth is not obligated to disprove such a status in, or to conduct a search at the outset of, the investigation.

The court found, however, that the Act effected a change in the statutory and regulatory landscape relevant to establishing probable cause for a search targeting such cultivation. After discussing the purpose and terms of the Act, the court held that a search warrant affidavit setting out facts that simply establish probable cause to believe the owner is growing marijuana on the property in question, without more, is insufficient to establish probable cause to believe that the suspected cultivation is a crime. “Missing are facts indicating that the person owning or in control of the property is not or probably not registered to cultivate the marijuana at issue.” Id. at 1165. Because the affidavit in the case before it did not set forth such facts, the court affirmed the order allowing the defendant’s motion to suppress.

About the Author: The author of this is article is Mark Rieber, Senior Attorney with National Legal Research Group in Charlottesville, Virginia. This case summary originally appeared on The Lawletter Blog. It is republished here with permission.

This article was originally published in The Lawletter Vol 38, No. 1.

This Little Piggy Went to the Market, This Little Piggy Ended Up in Court.

Lance Leider_smBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

The jig is up. At least it is for a podiatrist in Colorado. On Thursday, February 12, 2015, the physician in question pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud. Through improper location coding, the podiatrist allegedly defrauded Medicare out of higher reimbursements.

According to The Daily Sentinel, the podiatrist is accused of performing services at a nursing home while claiming otherwise. The physician allegedly billed for services based upon location coding showing the patients were seen in his private office, not in the nursing facility in which they resided.  In doing so, he received a higher reimbursement rate than he was eligible for.

The Logistics of The Scheme.

When registering to become a Medicare provider, physicians are required to provide the location at which they provide services.  Then when the services are billed, a place of service modifier can be attached to the code (e.g., hospital, private office, assisted living facility, etc.) to determine whether the service qualifies for a bump in reimbursement.  Services provided in an office setting typically receive reimbursements at a higher level in order to compensate for the overhead of the physician. Office expenditures such as rent, insurance, utilities and other cost associated with running a business are taken into consideration.

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The podiatrist was allegedly granted three months of rent-free space at the nursing home to provide services for the residents.  The physician, therefore, considered this to be enough to bill the office place of service modifier.  According to court records, the space he practiced out of was actually a storage room/beauty salon of the facility.

The charging document claims that the physician improperly billed on only two dates of services.  Reports differ on the amount of alleged fraud (some reports are as low as $2,000 while others are as high as $50,000).  But regardless of the actual, this story goes to show that the federal government is not above felony prosecution for less than “blockbuster” amounts of fraud.

The Benefits Never Outweigh the Risks.

With the sentencing hearing in May, the physician could be sentenced to probation or a maximum of 10 year in prison, and fined up to $250,000. In addition, the podiatrist will no longer be permitted to treat Medicare patients.  It is also possible that the podiatrist will be unable to retain his license to practice due to being a convicted felon and being placed on the OIG exclusion list.


If you are facing an OIG audit or investigation, you should immediately consult with an attorney experienced in handling those matters.  Retaining experienced counsel in the early stages of an OIG audit or investigation can be of great assistance in resolving the case without criminal charges or placement on the exclusion list.  Also, if you feel that your practice may be billing incorrectly for services, you should speak with an expert to determine the method and manner of any necessary repayment to the federal government.

To read the full story from The Daily Sentinel, click here.

To view court records of the case, click here.

One Last Thing.

We cannot stress enough the importance of properly registering your address with Medicare. The consequences can be damning to your career. Medicare exclusion will not only directly impact your bottom line, but it will also limit your job eligibility.


Have you ever run into an issue with your Medicare registered address? Did you know this was a surefire way to put yourself at risk? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in reversing termination of Medicare billing privileges, preparation of corrective action plans (CAPs), requests for redetermination, hearings on Medicare terminations, Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.