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Medical Transcriptionist Found Not Guilty of Defrauding Hospital

Medical Transcriptionist Found Not Guilty of Defrauding Hospital

K.L.B. was charged with second degree grand theft. The Information alleged that she defrauded Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute of more than $20,000.00. She promptly retained Jeffrey H. Garland for her defense.

The jury trial began on April 4, 2005, before St. Lucie County Circuit Judge Ben L. Bryan. Hospital administrators, testifying for the State, claimed that the defendant billed for medical transcription services not actually performed. The hospital claimed that transcription services were being outsourced to a system whereby transcription services were to be provided by transcribers located elsewhere in the Country. During the process of moving to the new system, the hospital continued to utilize “local transcribers”, such as defendant, for specific departments.

Attorney Garland vigorously contended that payroll records would not be admissible without the testimony of a payroll custodian of records. The State had sought to introduce payroll records through administrators with no personal involvement with the payroll record-keeping system.

Judge Bryan agreed that the payroll custodian would have to testify before the payroll records could become admissible. On cross-examination, the payroll custodian testified that there was a regular practice and procedure for the medical records department to approve third party invoices for payment. The defendant was, in fact, an independent contractor who invoiced the medical records department. The custodian went on to confirm that the medical records supervisor had personally confirmed each of the invoices for payment before the invoices were actually paid. Such evidence went a very long way to rebut the State’s case.

The medical records supervisor testified inconsistently with the information provided by the payroll custodian. She denied approving any of defendant’s invoices for payment. She claimed that defendant never performed transcription work during the period of time in question.

The medical records supervisor was unable to identify a single in-house or independent contractor who was performing transcription services during the relevant time period for the cardiology and pathology departments. She agreed that hospital accreditation standards required that cardiology and pathology reports be transcribed within 24 hours, consultations within 48 hours, and discharge summaries within 30 days. The medical records supervisor conceded that she never examined a single file to determine who actually performed the transcription services, and agreed that the hospital would be derelict if the transcriptions had not been timely performed.

After the State rested, the defense called a witness who testified that she picked up and dropped off packages at the medical records office for the defendant during the period of time in question. The witness would pick up packages containing micro-cassette tapes and deliver hard copy transcripts and/or CD roms.

The defendant testified in her own behalf. She denied all of the accusations. She explained that she had been employed as a medical transcriptionist for over 22 years. She carefully explained how she would balance her transcription work with the demands of her family life. Some times she would transcribe at a computer in the medical records department. Other times she would bring work home or have the work delivered to her at her home for transcription on her own personal computer. She explained that the hospital had no security system in place for the medical records department, such as the need for keys, ID cards or special swatch cards. Thus, there was no security system to prove that defendant performed work or that she did not. The lack of even a rudimentary security system seemed embarrassing for the hospital.

The defendant said she billed only for work performed. If she did not perform the transcriptions for the cardiology and pathology departments, who did? Hospital management could not point to any other transcriber during the period of time in question.

The jury found the defendant not guilty.

State v. K.L.B., St. Lucie County Case No. 04-CF-2743