Factual: Is this lawsuit rumor true?

A relation from St Cloud Florida claims to have 3rd hand knowledge of a COVID-related lawsuit. The basic idea is that the family of a deceased man is suing the hospital because his death certificate says he died of COVID-19, but the family believes he died of something else and the hospital only claimed him as a COVID death for financial gain.

Now, I’m perfectly aware that “doctors falsely claim deaths as COVID for money” is not true in general, but anybody can sue anybody for anything, so it’s entirely possible such a lawsuit could exist. If it does I’d like to know more about it. I haven’t been able to find any news stories on the subject, but I thought perhaps the teeming millions could help me track it down if it’s anything more than a myth. What say you, does this lawsuit exist?

I don’t have any knowledge of a specific lawsuit, but I wouldn’t be surprised. There are all kinds of stories in the media of people complaining about how deaths have been listed, on both sides of the issue: that people are being labeled as Covid deaths that weren’t, and others who were sick with Covid have not been counted.

I don’t know about the lawsuit - but a high school classmate of mine rather truculently posted (some months back) about how hospitals have a financial incentive to lie about the COVID diagnosis. Another classmate chimed in with “Yeah. My mom just died and if they put COVID on her death certificate imma SUE THEIR ASSES”.

So I did a little digging as to the source of this rumor. The person who started it is a conservative idiot who speculated that it would happen - but when called out on it after the initial interview basically said he had no evidence that it had actually happened (sounds rather like the election claims).

A doctor posted a rebuttal to the concept on Youtube. Yes, Medicare has specific fees for specifiic diagnoses. A COVID hospitalization without intubation would be reimbursed (making these numbers up) 30,000 dollars whether you’re in 4 days or 20… and with intubation would be reimbursed 90,000 (again, making those numbers up). And that’s how ALL conditions are reimbursed - according to set fees.

That rumor has gotten around. No less than the ex Prez has said it.

As that article notes, hospitals can get higher payments from the government for patients with COVID-19…while they’re alive, and only if they are on Medicare. The law that allowed this was signed by none other than Trump. So when he said doctors get paid more for COVID deaths, he was attacking his own bill, but it was a strawman because the claim wasn’t even true anyway.

But, I was hoping to find this specific lawsuit because family members believe it exists, and give it some weight. I suspect it does exist but they are misinformed about the facts of the case, or possibly the lawsuit alleges things the plaintiffs have no evidence for.

That high school classmate, when I responded with the cites I mentioned above (this was some time last summer, I believe) quite literally said “I don’t care. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. Translation: “I don’t care about facts, I care about whether it sounds like something I WANT to be true.”

This is word-for-word the response I got from a relative after sending a (FOX News!) link debunking the payments-for-covid-deaths rumor:

“Well, that’s one source. I don’t know, I only know I have heard it multiple times In multiple places but I don’t know anything about it and I haven’t researched it and don’t plan to. I don’t think there’s any way to know for sure who you can trust.”

Real life conversations don’t work like they do here.

I had a coworker act the same way about this crap:

What would it matter even if it were true? So there’s a lawsuit: So what? There are lots of stupid lawsuits out there.

Here’s a recent story about a county going back and reclassifying COVID deaths:

If someone died in a car accident, I could see a legitimate reason to want to get the cause of death changed. That’s going to be on the public record forever. The family may not want the death to be mis-attributed to COVID for a variety of reasons. If that county was classifying car accident deaths as COVID, I would assume that would also go for anyone who died in the hospital as well who happened to have COVID at the time.

Because I want to be able to respond to this relative with the facts, even if it’s unlikely to help the situation overall.

  • “Yes, they are suing over an incorrect death certificate, but it has nothing to do with extra money”
  • “They are alleging the hospital did it for money, but the lawsuit got tossed out because they were unable to present any evidence money was available for COVID-19 deaths.”
  • No such lawsuit exists, so the family was making empty threats
  • etc.

Or, “Florida has this insane law that sends money to a hospital whenever a patient dies of COVID-19, and this family believes their relative was incorrectly listed that way for money and provided valid evidence it happened.”

What’s the basis for the lawsuit? Assume the story is true and the hospital gets more money (from the insurance company, from the federal government, from whomever) if the guy died of COVID. What injuries has his family suffered that they’re suing?

Good question. One of the things I was hoping to find out.

It could be emotional distress. If the family or the deceased thought COVID is a hoax or overblown, they may be upset to have the death attributed to COVID when it was really something else (e.g. a car accident). I’m not sure how much in damages that would be worth. Anyone can sue for any amount, but the judge or jury would set the value, if any, during the verdict.

Ok, so I found the Osceola County court docket.
https://courts.osceolaclerk.com/BenchmarkWeb/CourtCase.aspx/CaseSearch

At this time, “Orlando Health” is the defendant in 2 lawsuits between 2020 and 2021.
I’m not entirely sure I’m reading it right, but it appears one case of malpractice was…settled for $42? That case seems light on detail and I can’t figure out what the actual complaint was.

The other has to do with somebody who died in February 2019.

It seems at this point very likely the case I’m looking for does not exist.

I wonder if someone involved in negotiating the settlement is a Hitchhiker’s Guide fan?

There is the concept of libel per se where no damages are required to be proven:

I would think that Covid-19 would not be considered a “loathsome” disease as that category was designed for leprosy, and I believe some courts adopted it for AIDS.

What makes me call BS on the scenario in the OP is that it just screams Urban Legend. IANAL, but my understanding is that, as mentioned, for a lawsuit to progress there has to be a claim of damages (if even, as UltraVires has pointed out, the claim is to the reputation). Not only does the OP not mention any actual “damages” there seems to be a point made that the motive for the wrong cause of death was for financial gain for the hospital. It seems to me that this is completely irrelevant. It seems to me the court would be completely uninterested why the cause of death was registered incorrectly, only whether or not it was, in fact, in error and, if it was incorrect, what damage the plaintiff suffered because of it.

Of course, it is ONLY the motive for the supposed incorrect determination of the cause of death that makes narrative in the OP at all interesting and worth repeating. That is, the supposed fact (financial gain for the hospital) that makes the story interesting is irrelevant to lawsuit. Without the lawsuit, there would be no story.

True. But real life conservatives work exactly the way they do here.

How about this hypothetical scenario?

The deceased died in a car accident, in which the surviving family claim the other driver was at fault. So they sue the other driver (or his insurance company).

But the hospital finds that the deceased was infected with Covid-19 at the time of death, and so lists the cause of death as Covid-19.

So the other driver (and his insurance company) now use that to rebut the plaintiff’s claim that the other driver caused the death. The plaintiff (the deceased driver’s family) lose the case, or maybe are awarded a much smaller judgement than they expected.