DAVENPORT — Attorney Michael Walker was not negligent while he represented the city of Clinton in a 2010 False Claims Act case, a Des Moines lawyer who is president of the Iowa Bar Association testified Tuesday.
Guy Cook told members of the jury hearing the city’s legal malpractice suit against Walker and his law firm Hopkins and Huebner that the defendants made the right moves in the underlying False Claims Act suit, including the move to settle for $4.5 million.
The city retained Walker and his firm in 2009 after a lawsuit from former Clinton firefighter and whistleblower Timothy Schultheis was unsealed. Schultheis alleged the city had submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid in order to receive higher reimbursement rates for ambulance runs.
That case was settled in 2010 for $4.5 million to be paid without interest over the course of 10 years. The city filed suit against Walker in his firm in 2012, claiming he failed to properly analyze the case and his negligence led to the city settling.
Among the assertions that have been made in the legal malpractice case is one that Walker should not have accepted the False Claims Act case because he, by his own admission, had never heard of the False Claims Act before he was retained by the city.
Cook testified Walker and his firm were qualified and had the requisite skills to handle the Schultheis case. He would have recommended Walker hire an expert and get acquainted with the statute, but would not have advised against Walker taking the case, Cook said.
In regard to Walker’s decision not to file a motion to dismiss under either of two federal rules, Cook said such motions are strategically used and he felt Walker used his discretion not to file the motions for strategic reasons.
Further, Cook said, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Senior Judge Charles Wolle, who the Schultheis case was assigned to, was “not a person prone to grant motions to dismiss.”