9 Investigates: Whistleblower lawsuit against Halifax Health cost taxpayers $24.3 million

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VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. —

9 Investigates uncovered why a high amount of taxpayer money is being spent to fight a whistleblower lawsuit against Halifax Health Medical Center.

The hospital is funded, in part, by tax money, but it’s tried to keep the rates it has paid its attorneys a secret, which violates public records laws.

It took a lawsuit to get Halifax to release the numbers, which show the hospital paid one law firm $350,000 per month for more than four years to defend itself against the accusations.

In 2009, an employee in the compliance department at Halifax Health brought forward accusations that the hospital kept people in the hospital who did not need to be there, and gave illegal kickbacks to doctors.

The federal government joined the lawsuit and the hospital fought the accusations for nearly half a decade while attorneys’ fees mounted.

WFTV found out the hospital paid 15 different attorneys from 11 different law firms.

Five of the attorneys earned $700 an hour or more, and two earned $900 an hour.

In all, the legal fees have cost taxpayers $24.3 million.

Add onto that the $85 million settlement, and the fees the hospital will pay with the whistleblower’s attorneys, and it amounts to $116 million.

“The hospital’s conduct was so egregious, that it put taxpayers on the hook for an astronomical settlement and astronomical amount of attorneys’ fees,” said WFTV’s legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.

Ed Connor with Volusia Tax Reform is upset that no one at the hospital has been fired for the conduct that led to the lawsuit.

“We’ve seen people get promotes, shifted around and moved,” Connor said. “We haven’t seen anyone held accountable for the decisions.”

A tentative settlement of $1 million has been reached for the second half of the lawsuit.

That doesn't include the whistleblower's attorneys' fees that Halifax will have to pay.