Redefining Chutzpah

One of the really nice things about reading stacks of lawsuits is that every now and then you run across something that makes your jaw drop. My mouth still hurts from reading a complaint filed in Los Angeles last week that almost certainly didn’t get the attention it deserved.

The suit is a class action filed on behalf of medical clinics and doctors against the manufacturer of a device called a P-STIM that emits electrical pulses into patients’ ears.

Rather than describe this document, I’m going to quote a few key passages. See if you react to this the same way I did.

“As a means of marketing the P-STIM, the defendants conceived of promoting the P-STIM as billable under a particular set of medical billing codes. … This code and the ancillary codes billed with it … provided for between $3,000 and $6,000 in reimbursement from health insurers for a procedure with little or no associated cost, taking ten minutes to perform. Consequently, with this type of promotion, the utilization of P-STIM skyrocketed.”

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, apparently, the billing instructions were wrong, and “health insurers, including Medicare have sought reimbursement for and are recouping … hundreds of millions of dollars from … medical providers.”

Is your mouth open?

The plaintiffs are suing because they have to give back $3,000 to $6,000 fees for low-cost 10-minute procedures.

Their emotional distress alone should be worth millions.

Aside from that, though, it’s kind of hard to see what their damages could possibly be for being forced to accept reasonable fees. Maybe they could argue they would have used some other more expensive treatment if they could have gotten away with it.

Now I suppose some of you may look at this as a symptom of what’s wrong with our health care system or our insurance system or maybe even our legal system.

I prefer to look at this more positively – we now have a new dictionary definition for the term “chutzpah.”

By the way, I should note that the purported class representatives — a couple of pain management clinics — are represented by a sole practitioner who may not have considered how much the rest of the class might be a tad annoyed at being outed like this.

Stay tuned for the future lawsuit against the plaintiffs and their lawyers on behalf of doctors who have to be more careful about billing, once word of this gets out.


What are humans good for? Here’s an issue to think about: How can a human breach a contract — or adhere to a contract — if she or he has never read it?

It’s bad enough that most of us never read agreements on websites and electronic devices because, darn it, we just want to start playing games and watching videos.

I bring this up in light of the announcement last week by a company called LawGeex that it’s raised funding for a computer program that reviews contracts so that human lawyers don’t have to.

I suppose that’s labor-saving, but how exactly are the clients supposed to know what they’re obligated to do or not do?

And why hire lawyers at all?

Await further instructions from your computers.


Favorite sentence of the week. This is from a Canadian news report: A third judge, the chief justice of the Tax Court of Canada, was revealed making a speech in which he promoted drinking alcohol with the tax industry.”

Seems like the best way to hang out with accountants.

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