Do You Have Grounds to Sue? Understanding When Healthcare Providers Should Take Legal Action Against Former Employees, Vendors, and Competitors
Knowledgeable Federal Attorneys for Healthcare Litigation
As a healthcare provider, you have enough to worry about without disgruntled former employees, vendors, and competitors interfering with your business or practice. From HIPAA compliance to avoiding mistakes under the Medicare billing regulations, avoiding legal issues is a constant struggle for physicians, pharmacists, hospital administrators, and others throughout the healthcare industry. When all you want to do is provide the best possible care for your patients, the last thing you need is for other individuals’ or companies’ unlawful activities to weigh you down.
However, the reality is that healthcare providers will often face legal issues on a number of different fronts. While this includes maintaining compliance with the myriad of laws and regulations that apply to the industry, frequently, it will also include taking legal action to prevent others’ actions from causing substantial and long-term harm. A swift and aggressive approach can be critical to mitigating the damages from the improper activities of former employees, vendors, and competitors. A provider must be prepared to take action when their business, practice or professional reputation is on the line.
Why Healthcare Providers May Need to Institute Civil Litigation
So, when is it time to consider legal action? While every situation merits its own analysis based upon the specific facts and circumstances at hand, here are 10 common legal issues that will often merit filing a civil complaint:
1. Defamation (Libel or Slander)
From disgruntled former employees and competitors to patients and former spouses, defamatory statements can come from a variety of different sources. Any false public statement (written or oral) that has the potential to significantly harm your professional reputation can potentially warrant legal action for defamation. We have represented healthcare providers in defamation cases involving a former employee’s false accusations of Stark Law violations, a former spouse’s false reporting of ethical violations, and various other damaging false statements made in person and online.
2. Tortious Interference
Tortious interference claims involve allegations that a third party has wrongfully interfered with a business relationship. This relationship can be either contractual or non-contractual in nature, and it can involve an employee, supplier, business partner, or other third parties. While tortious interference is a matter of state law, in most states, the basic elements of a tortious interference claim are:
- The existence of a valid contractual or non-contractual business relationship;
- Knowledge of the relationship by the interfering party;
- Deliberate action to interfere with the relationship or to induce one party to end the relationship;
- Lack of legal justification for the interference; and,
- Commercial harm resulting from the interference.
3. Breach of Contract
Healthcare providers typically rely on numerous contracts to keep their businesses and practices up and running. From employment agreements to consulting contracts, and information technology (IT) service agreements to commercial leases, contracts can play a role in all aspects of a provider’s operations. When contracting parties fall short of meeting their obligations, legal action will often be necessary.
Like tortious interference claims, fraud claims can arise both within and outside of the context of a contractual relationship. If your practice has been negatively impacted by a third party’s false or misleading representations, our attorneys can assess whether you have a viable claim for commercial fraud.
5. Trademark Infringement
Trademark law protects healthcare providers’ commercial identities as well as the brand names of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, durable medical equipment (DME), and other products, services, and supplies. A claim for trademark infringement can arise where one company (such as a competitor or a startup formed by a former employee) uses another company’s trademark without authorization, or where one company adopts a different but “confusingly similar” trademark that leads to marketplace misidentification.
6. Patent Infringement
Patent protection plays a significant role in the healthcare industry, and many practitioners, DME companies, pharmaceutical companies, and other providers rely heavily on the exclusivity of their patents to sustain their profitability. We represent clients ranging from individual inventors to large corporations in patent infringement matters, and are available to take prompt legal action against licensees and unrelated third parties.
7. Trade Secret Infringement and Breaches of Confidentiality
Trade secrets and confidential information can be critical to healthcare providers’ competitive positions in the marketplace. Misappropriation of trade secrets (or trade secret infringement) and breaches of confidentiality can cause substantial economic harm, and prompt legal action can be crucial to both mitigating the immediate damage and ensuring future protectability.
8. Antitrust Violations
Antitrust law protects consumers against anti-competitive practices; and while various federal authorities are responsible for enforcing the nation’s antitrust laws (similar to the federal healthcare fraud enforcement regime), companies can pursue antitrust claims under statutory “private right of action” provisions as well. Common examples of antitrust violations in the healthcare industry include price-fixing, restraints of trade, tying arrangements, patient restrictions, and refusals to deal.
9. Non-Compete Violations
Although there are restrictions on the enforceability of non-competition covenants (particularly in the context of highly-skilled medical professions), enforcing valid non-competes can be crucial to protecting healthcare providers’ investments in their employees and their hard-earned goodwill. We help healthcare providers take legal action against former employees directly, and we also have experience dealing with competitors that have hired former employees who are subject to non-competes.
10. Unfair Competition
Unfair competition is a broad area of the law that applies to everything from advertising practices to intellectual property (IP) misappropriation. If you believe that a competitor is relying on illegal practices to gain an unfair advantage, we can help you take action to protect your market position.
Speak with a Skilled Civil Litigation Attorney at Oberheiden, P.C.
For more information about taking legal action to protect your healthcare business or practice, we encourage you to schedule an initial consultation at Oberheiden, P.C.. Our attorneys represent clients in multiple states across the nation in civil litigation, and we have particular experience working with healthcare providers. To schedule an appointment, please call our offices at 888-680-1745 or send us your information online and we will be in touch as soon as possible.