Abiomed (NSDQ:ABMD) has convinced a federal judge that whistleblower Max Bennett had no basis on which to claim the company fired him in retaliation for his investigation of federal False Claims Act violations.
Judge Indira Talwani ruled on Tuesday that “no reasonable jury could find that Bennett had engaged in protected activity or that he was terminated in retaliation for protected activity.”
Documents unsealed in March 2018 revealed that Bennett accused the Danvers, Mass.-based heart pump maker of firing him in retaliation for accusing it of a kickback scheme involving the wining and dining of physicians at fancy restaurants to encourage them to use its Impella pump, according to court documents. Abiomed agreed that month to pay $3.1 million to settle the whistleblower case with the U.S. Department of Justice; Bennett was due $542,000 from the settlement, the justice department said at the time.
During the interview process ahead of his September 2012 hiring, Bennett told Abiomed that he left Biotronik after the cardiac rhythm management company changed its sales model. Abiomed claims it fired Bennett the following month for lying to the company about having been fired by Biotronik, according to the judge’s memorandum.
While employed as a director of clinical operations for the southeast region for Abiomed, Bennett repeatedly asked questions about the company’s spending policy for entertaining healthcare providers. In his lawsuit, Bennett claimed those questions were the reason for his dismissal because of the timing in which the events occurred, in addition to his previous whistleblowing activity while at at Biotronik.
“Abiomed was concerned about Bennett’s honesty but was careful not to jump to unwarranted conclusions,” the judge concluded.
“The entire record of this case presents a cohesive narrative of events with regards to Bennett’s hiring and termination from Abiomed,” Talwani added. “From the entire record, the court finds that no reasonable jury could find in Bennett’s favor on the (False Claims Act) retaliation claim and thus judgment is appropriate as a matter of law.”
Bennett had also claimed wrongful termination under Massachusetts law, but again, Talwani said Bennett did not prove he had engaged in legally protected activity. She granted Abiomed summary judgment on both the federal and state claims.