TeamHealth Emergency Physician Group Wins $9.4 Million Arkansas Jury Verdict for Underpayment by Centene Corporation
August 19, 2020
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A six-person jury on Tuesday awarded a $9.4 million verdict on behalf of Southeastern Emergency Physicians, LLC, an affiliate of TeamHealth Inc., finding that Centene Corporation and Ambetter, Novasys and Celtic, its commercial insurance subsidiaries, systematically tried to strip the 120 emergency clinicians in the physician’s group of most of their pay.
In one of the first in-person jury trials in Arkansas since the COVID-19 virus hit, the jury in U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller’s court found that the defendants grossly underpaid and breached their agreement with the emergency room doctors. The jury awarded $9.4 million in damages and the judge added an additional $1.24 million in attorneys’ fees and costs. It is in the 2020 Top 100 Verdicts as calculated by Verdict Search. It is also a 2020 Top 10 Verdict nationally for the year so far.
See the Texas Lawbook story on this win Six Days Notice, Six Witnesses, Six Jurors, 150 ER Doctors, Two Ticked Off In-House Counsel and a $9.4M Verdict (subscription required).
“The Centene defendants tried to cheat these hardworking emergency room doctors. They treated commercial insurance claims like Medicare payments, they tried to hide which company owed the money, they paid late. Their cavalier attitude toward these essential workers was abominable,” said John Zavitsanos, the lead attorney and a name partner with Houston-based AZA or Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C.
This lawsuit is one of many TeamHealth has filed against various insurers across the country to stop systematic underpayment of ER doctors’ groups by insurance companies, that seek to keep the money for their own coffers. The legal team was hired only six days before this Arkansas trial. A similar Houston case is scheduled to be tried soon by Mr. Zavitsanos and his team. TeamHealth is trying to level the playing field for these key doctors that support multiple communities but whose practice groups are being badly underpaid by several highly profitable insurance companies.
The jury found that the Centene-controlled commercial insurance company and health network since 2014 had paid the emergency clinicians’ groups only 20% of the amount they were owed for their services. The jury also heard how Centene tried to obfuscate their ownership of the companies and the entities responsible for paying the doctors. “Communities depend on their ER doctors, and insurance companies cheating them out of their livelihood is not only fraudulent, it’s dangerous,” said TeamHealth co-counsel Collin D. Kennedy of Frisco, Texas-based Hanshaw Kennedy Hafen, LLP.
TeamHealth is a physician-led, patient-focused company founded by doctors, for doctors. TeamHealth is represented in this lawsuit by Mr. Kennedy and AZA name partner Mr. Zavitsanos, AZA Of Counsel Kevin Leyendecker and AZA associate Michael Killingsworth. Their co-counsel are Judy Simmons Henry, Baxter D. Drennon and Michael A. Thompson of Wright Lindsey Jennings in Little Rock.
The case is Southeastern Emergency Physicians, LLC v. Arkansas Health & Wellness Health Plan, Inc.; Celtic Insurance Company d/b/a Arkansas Health & Wellness Insurance Company; Novasys Health, Inc., and Centene Corporation, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Case No. 4:17-cv-492-KGB.
AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, healthcare, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2020 among the best in Texas commercial law; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for eight years running; was named 2019 Litigation Department of the Year by Texas Lawyer; and was previously dubbed by Law360 a Texas Powerhouse law firm. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 500 and 1000.