The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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October 18, 2013

Verdict clears attorney; city gets nothing



"I do not believe the verdict of no negligence reflects at all if the city would have won the Schultheis case had it gone to trial," Hannafan said. "I strongly believe the city, the firefighters and paramedics did nothing wrong in their coding and billing. I believe they would have been fully vindicated, but they didn't get that chance because they were rushed into a $4.5 million settlement."

Clinton Fire Chief Mike Brown and McGovern declined to comment on the verdict.

Waterman told the jury about the obstacles Walker saw in his defense of the case, such as the city's budgeting at 100 percent ALS, its failure to train the finance staff that sent bills and duplicate reports that contained different codes. Walker testified too many people knew what was going on and chose to do nothing for the city to prove it wasn't just looking the other way, which is actionable under the False Claims Act.

Walker first proposed the idea of a settlement to the city council on April 13, 2010. A mediation took place in July and the suit was subsequently settled in September 2010.

While he did not address whether or not the city had billed its claims incorrectly, Clark spoke to Walker's negligence. He contended Walker's acceptance of the case was his first breach of the standard of care. Walker admitted he had never heard of the False Claims Act until he started work on the Schultheis case. His inexperience left him unable to properly defend the city against the False Claims Act allegations, Clark said. He detailed all the steps he believes Walker should have taken such as filing motions to dismiss, deposing Schultheis, and keeping track of Wolfberg. In Clark's opinion, Walker also mislead the city council about the potential liabilities. The defense's case consisted of three expert witnesses: coding and billing expert JR Henry, CPA and healthcare consultant Lamar Blount and Des Moines attorney and Iowa State Bar Association president Guy Cook.

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