Why is it that certain lawsuits seem to receive a huge amount of media attention while others do not?
This is a question I’ve begun to ask since I have found myself enmeshed in a suit that has received a substantial amount of unwarranted media attention, while another suit I have litigated has wallowed in relative obscurity even though it resulted in a landmark appellate decision with significant social and economic implications.
Implicitly there is an unfairness to this situation which I would like to address in this month’s column in the hope that this form of publicity will expose and maybe rectify this inequity, rather than enhance it.
HUNGRY FOR SCANDAL
By now it is pretty much public knowledge that serious allegations of sexual harassment and impropriety have been alleged against Liza Minnelli by her former assistant.
Admittedly, this is a suit which my office has initiated.
Since this suit contains salacious references to a prominent public figure, the media (including Jay Leno!) has given this suit much more attention than it actually deserves.
In my mind, this suit is not unlike others involving workplace quid pro quo sexual harassment and retaliation.
The only novelty is that it involves a well known public figure and a claim of sexual harassment made by a male subordinate against his female employer.
In my experience, I have handled many sexual harassment cases like this one, including a sexual harassment action brought by a male detective against a male deputy inspector, both of whom were employed by the New York City Police Department.
That action, which was by far more shocking than the Minnelli suit, received no media attention. The Giuliani administration would not permit it!
For this reason, I feel some degree of compassion for the participants in the Minnelli litigation. They never desired media attention. It was thrust upon them by a confluence of factors — including a scandal hungry media.
On the other hand, I have been desperately trying for years to get the media, as well as government officials, to take notice of the fraud claims considered in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s decision in U.S. ex rel Quinn v. Omnicare, 382 F. 3d 432 (3rd Cir Sept. 1, 2004).
There the Third Circuit held that a major loophole existed in Medicaid regulations which permitted long term care pharmacies to recycle and restock medications multiple times and receive full payment from Medicaid each time a claim was submitted.
In simple terms, these pharmacies were involved in Medicaid fraud.
Unfortunately, this claim was rejected by the Third Circuit because at present there are no state or federal regulations existent which prohibit multiple Medicaid claims for recycled medications.
The Third Circuit, in fact, acknowledged that “Congress and/or the New Jersey legislature might serve Medicaid well if this lack of regulation were corrected.”
I think it’s time enough for us to set our priorities straight.
What’s more important: whether Liza Minnelli had sex with her assistant — or whether millions of dollars of taxpayer money are being squandered by the politically connected pharmaceutical industry?
If you’re among the enlightened, you’ll answer the latter rather than the former.
If this is the case, please contact U.S. Senator Jon S. Corzine (D-NJ), who proposed federal legislation on Oct. 8, 2004 that would close this loophole once and for all. His number in Washington is (202) 224-4744.
And stop reading those tabloids!
Harvey Mars is counsel to Local 802 and is available to answer your legal questions in this column, space and content permitting. He can be reached at (212) 765-4300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column should not be construed as formal legal advice given in the context of an attorney-client relationship.