Big Case Qui Tam experience of Ralph Losey, and his law partner, George Coe.
The plaintiff persuaded the jury, and the trial judge who upheld their ruling, to make this award, even though the government opposed the action. The trial resulted in the largest False Claims Act verdict ever rendered up to that time. Unfortunately, it was later reversed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal on the dubious grounds that the government had approved of the fraudulent billing, and so the fraud was “immaterial,” an argument that the District Court trial judge said stood Qui Tam on its head. US ex rel. Harman v. Trinity Industries, Inc., 872 F. 3d 645 (5th Circuit 2017). This is the kind of questionable ruling and DOJ action that you have heard Senator Charles Grassley, and others, complain about, which is now the subject of pending legislation in Congress to try to prevent from ever happening again.
In the Harmon case George was working as a trial attorney for the Boies Schiller firm, where he of backed up the legendary David Boise, well known throughout the country. George Coe, while with Boise, is also well known, especially in Florida, as trial counsel to the plaintiffs in People United for Medical Marijuana v. Florida Dept. of Health, 2017-CA-1394 (Fl. 2d Cir. Ct.) (video of key portion of the trial). This is the case that struck the legislature’s ban on smokeable medical marijuana. George has brought and defended big cases in many courts across the United States. See our law firm page for more information about George Coe.
Ralph Losey. That’s me, the author of this blog. I am the lawyer behind the scenes who started the record breaking False Claims Act case for my client, John Kopchinski, against Pfizer. US ex rel John Kopchinski v. Pfizer, Inc. and Pharmacia Corporation, Case No. 03-cv-60494-HURLEY (Fla. SD, March 19, 2003) (filed under seal).
I do not begin to have the trial experience and expertise of George Coe, but I have an eye for a good case. I am also pretty decent at drafting pleadings and complying with complex legal technicalities. To give you an idea of the quality of my work in Qui Tam, see the thirty-five page complaint (exhibits not here included) that I filed under seal in the Southern District of Florida on March 19, 2003 (later transferred and consolidated in Boston with several similar, but later filed cases against Pfizer). A state court action was filed the same day, along with a detailed disclosure letter to the DOJ and Attorney General, as required by law.
With a strong legal team behind me, I was fast and fortunate enough to be the first lawyer to file a false claims complaint against Pfizer for its illegal off-label marketing of the drug Bextra. After the government intervened and took over, this led to the government’s $2.3 Billion settlement in late 2009 with Pfizer, for resolution of the Bextra false claims and related litigation. This picture shows the press conference with DOJ announcing the record settlement.
This still stands as the largest single False Claims Act payment in history. As the first to file, and strongest claim, John Kopchinski received a bounty payment of $51.5 Million from the government’s share. John, a West Point graduate, and Gulf War veteran turned Pfizer drug sales rep, is a brave man who deserves every penny of it. I knew from his first confidential email to me about his problems with his employer that this was a man whom I wanted to represent. My instincts were right.