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Whistleblowers: $78.5 Million Settlement

Two University of Phoenix' former employees turned whistleblowers may be happy they had the courage to speak out against the University's bad practices.

The lawsuit alleged that the University defrauded the U.S. Department of Education by obtaining federal student loan and Pell Grant monies from the federal government based on false statements of compliance with the Higher Education Act prohibiting universities from receiving federal student aid monies from making incentive payments to recruiters based on the number of students they recruit or enroll.

The $78.5 million settlement includes $11 million as statutory attorneys' fees and costs, which will be paid to the attorneys for the whistleblower plaintiffs. A jury trial was set to begin in March 2010 before federal district judge Garland Burrell in Sacramento.

Judge Burrell had previously dismissed the lawsuit but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007 reinstituted all claims after concluding that the whistleblowers' allegations of fraud, if proven true, could make the University of Phoenix liable to reimburse the Department of Education for hundreds of millions of dollars in student aid funds.

The University of Phoenix denies all allegations.


Low wage workers not receive Workers Compensation

Labor News

In a recent study conducted by the National Employment Law Project, UCLA, and the University of Illinois - low-wage workers who are hurt on the job are routinely pressured not to file for the workers' compensation to which they are legally entitled. This study found that only eight percent of low-wage workers who suffered a serious injury on the job filed a workers' compensation claim.

Fifty percent of these low wage workers experienced an illegal reaction of fear of being fired, having immigration authorities called on undocumented workers or being told not to file for workers' compensation.

Thirty-three percent of low wage earners paid their own medical bills and another 22 percent used their health insurance to pay their medical expenses. Only six percent of low wage earners had their medical expenses paid by workers' compensation.

In Pennsylvania, you are covered by workers' compensation insurance from the day you're hired.



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This roundup of headlines from across the nation provides a snapshot of what's happening with
workers' compensation in the United States.

On the Slopes

Should a teacher who became injured while on a ski trip be entitled to workers compensation? After an appeal yes, she is! The teacher volunteered to chaperone on a high school ski trip. She fell and hurt her shoulder which required two surgeries and physical therapy.

She filed a claim for benefits and two administrative judges turned down her claim. The math teacher appealed to the state board which oversees workers compensation and the decision was reversed but the city appealed the decision.

The Supreme Judicial Court upheld the board ruling, saying that "a teacher who acts as a chaperone to students participating in a school-sponsored activity is acting in the course of her employment." She was expected to chaperone.

Moral of the story: Don't mess with the math teacher and hooray for Boston legal.


Should an Illegal Immigrant Receive Workers' Comp?

The Nebraska Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that an illegal immigrant injured at Cargill slaughterhouse is eligible for workers' compensation benefits.

The judge found that in May 2006, Visoso was employed by Cargill as a laborer, and that while engaged in the duties of his employment, he suffered injuries to his cervical spine as a result of an accident arising in the course of his employment. The judge found that a front quarter of beef fell from a conveyor and struck Visoso on the rear of his head, neck, and shoulders. The judge found that Visoso's injury was initially diagnosed as a cervical strain but later as cervical spondylosis. The judge held that Visoso is entitled to benefits as provided under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act.

The judge determined that at the time of the accident and injury, Visoso was receiving an average weekly wage of $514.56 and thus was entitled to benefits of $343.04 per week from October 4, 2007, through the date of trial and for so long in the future as the illegal immigrant employee shall remain temporarily totally disabled and further order of the Court.


New Jersey Hospital Whistleblower

Two New Jersey hospitals have agreed to pay the United States to resolve allegations that the hospitals defrauded Medicare. The two hospitals are Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center (OLL) in Camden, N.J., and Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County (LMC) in Willingboro, N.J.

The whistleblower alleged that the hospital fraudulently inflated its charges to Medicare patients to obtain enhanced reimbursement from Medicare. In addition to its standard payment system, Medicare provides supplemental reimbursement to hospitals and other healthcare providers in cases where the cost of care is unusually high. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital inflated its charges to obtain supplemental payments for cases that were not extraordinarily costly and for which supplemental payments should not have been paid.

The courageous whistleblower brought his suit under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private citizens with knowledge of fraud against the government to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery. Under the civil settlement he will receive $356,000, plus interest, out of the Our Lady of Lourdes Health Care Services settlement of $7.95 million.


About the Statute of Limitations

If you are not a client and need legal advice or would like to discuss representation, please contact one of our attorneys to discuss your individual questions. We only provide legal advice to people who have signed a written agreement retaining our legal services. If you want to pursue a claim, you should not delay in hiring a lawyer. Please be advised that each state has a different statute of limitations within which suit must be filed. If you fail to timely file suit within your state's statute of limitations you may be forever barred from later bringing a claim.

We offer this information as a public service to those interested in Workers Compensation news. This newsletter is not legal advice and should only be considered as general information.

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