District Court Slaps Away Doctor’s Anti-SLAPP Motion
The California Fourth District Court of Appeal has agreed with a trial court’s denial of a pain physician’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) motion in a lawsuit alleging fraudulent patient medical reports and billing statements.
In its opinion, the court wrote, SLAPP suits “are meritless lawsuits designed to punish parties for constitutionally protected activities (free speech or the right to petition).” A defendant files an anti-SLAPP motion to strike down a SLAPP suit.
In 2019, Allstate Insurance Company filed a lawsuit alleging insurance fraud and unfair competition. It claimed that Sonny Rubin, M.D. “recommended unnecessary medical treatments, falsely represented it had treated injuries, engaged in deceptive billing practices, and prepared false invoices for insurance claims.”
Dr. Rubin controls two medical companies: Sonny Rubin, M.D., Inc. and Coastal Spine and Orthopedic Specialists, Inc. A portion of his practice involves “lien patients.” A lien patient is a patient that has been involved in a car accident and is subsequently referred to Dr. Rubin by an attorney.
In 2020, Dr. Rubin filed an anti-SLAPP motion. In his motion he argued that his actions met the definition of prelitigation activities under the anti-SLAPP statute. Specifically, “preparing and providing to the patient’s attorney the necessary documents supporting the medical services provided on a lien.”
Allstate filed an opposition to Dr. Rubin’s anti-SLAPP motion. The trial court sided with Allstate. It found that Dr. Rubin “failed to establish that Allstate’s claims arise from protected activity.”
The appellate court also sided with Allstate. It found that Dr. Rubin “failed to provide evidence establishing the written medical reports or billing statements for its lien patients were made ‘in anticipation of litigation contemplated in good faith and under serious consideration.’” Notably, the appellate court found that in Dr. Rubin’s practice litigation was only a “possibility” and the “possibility” of litigation is not a “protected prelitigation activity under the anti-SLAPP statute.”