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Lawsuit against Cleveland Clinic dismissed on appeal

The Cleveland Clinic appears to have prevailed in an unusual type of medical malpractice lawsuit filed by a man who underwent surgery for prostate cancer at the Clinic in 2008. A federal appeals court found that the man had no standing to sue the Clinic under the False Claims Act, a statute meant to prosecute businesses that defraud government programs.

The plaintiff is a retired Air Force officer, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In 2007, he met with a surgeon at the Clinic to discuss prostate surgery. The operation took place in January 2008. Complications ensued, and as a result the plaintiff became disabled and lost his job in the military.

He later sued the Cleveland Clinic and the surgeon, claiming the doctor did not personally perform the operation as promised, falsified medical records, and issued bills for operations he did not perform. The litigation included both a conventional medical malpractice suit and a suit under the False Claims Act, in which a plaintiff acts as a “relator,” suing on behalf of the federal government.

The hope is that the government intervenes in the case, but that did not happen in this case. The trial judge dismissed the False Claims suit for failure to state a claim.

The plaintiff appealed, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal. The appellate court ruled that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue under the Act, because he did not personally witness any of the surgeon’s alleged misdeeds.

The other lawsuit related to this case was dismissed at trial, but revived on appeal, and is now pending in the Ohio Supreme Court.

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