DAVENPORT — Testimony in the city of Clinton’s legal malpractice suit has focused on more than the people involved in emergency medical services.
In the second week of the city’s suit against attorney Michael Walker and his law firm Hopkins and Huebner, testimony also explored the computer program Clinton Fire Department staff used to generate reports.
Walker represented the city in a federal False Claims Act suit brought on by former firefighter Timothy Schultheis in 2008. Schultheis claimed the city knowingly submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid in order to receive higher reimbursements.
The city claims Walker failed to properly analyze the case and his alleged negligence led to the city settling for $4.5 million in 2010. The city wants $4.67 million to cover the cost of the settlement as well as attorney and expert fees.
As Walker represented the city in the Schultheis case, problems with the patient care reports created using Firehouse software were brought to his attention.
When billing and coding expert Douglas Wolfberg looked at the reports Walker gave him, Wolfberg found duplicate reports that had different information such as the ALS or BLS codes. This apparent duplicate reporting concerned Wolfberg and stalled his work on the case, according to the portions of his deposition that were read into the record last week. Walker saw the duplicate bills as “red flags” or obstacles for the city’s defense, Walker testified.
Computer problems were a common occurrence at the fire department, EMS Director Andrew McGovern testified. The computer would frequently freeze and the Firehouse program would lose work previously done, he said.
Still, McGovern said he was surprised at the duplicate reports and called a Firehouse software representative when Walker brought the duplicate reports to his attention. A computer glitch had caused the old data on the reports to be overwritten with new data and the old data was not recoverable, McGovern testified. Walker was still concerned about the duplicates. He did not hire a computer expert to look into the duplicate report problem.