California Whistleblower Lawsuit Ensnares Major Lab Companies

Allegations of false claims implicate discounted client billing practices

It’s the first major whistleblower lawsuit in the laboratory industry in recent years. On March 20, California State Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced that his state had joined a qui tam lawsuit that alleges a number of laboratories have filed false claims on a “massive” scale, thus defrauding the California Medi-Cal program of “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The unusual twist in this whistleblower lawsuit is that it was originally filed by the owner of a California-based laboratory. In 2005, Chris Reidel, owner and CEO of Hunter Laboratories, in Campbell, California, initiated the legal action, alleging what AG Brown characterized as “massive Medi-Cal fraud and kickbacks. Medi-Cal is the state’s Medicaid health program for the poor.

The original lawsuit filed by Reidel seeks to recover at least $100 million. However, one of his attorneys, Joe Cotchett, of the San Francisco-based law firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, believes the state’s actual losses could be more than $1 billion. The lawsuit is pending in San Mateo Superior Court and was filed under seal in 2005.