A federal court judge in Orlando, Florida, ruled on July 30, 2015, that a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of foreign licensed massage therapists could proceed against the FCNH, Inc., which does business as Florida College of Natural Health. This was the first round in a multi-count suit filed initially by The Health Law Firm, of Altamonte Springs, Florida.
The case was originally filed by The Health Law Firm in September 2014, but was later amended in February 4, 2015. For the Amended Complaint, click here. The Amended Complaint was served on FCNH, Inc., which has campuses for its private, for-profit colleges around Florida. After this occurred, another law firm joined in with The Health Law Firm in prosecuting the case on behalf of the massage therapists. The attorneys for the Defendants removed the case to federal court on February 23, 2015, in part because the damages sought by the plaintiff massage therapists in the class action exceeded $5 million. The case has been proceeding in federal court since that time.
The Amended Complaint also named as Defendants other affiliated organizations including Steiner Education Group, Inc, Steiner U.S. Holdings, Inc., and Steiner Leisure Ltd, which also have offices in the Fort Lauderdale/Pompano area. The Amended Complaint make allegations of fraudulent conduct, including violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, and activities of other FCNH employees.
The case is based upon a course of action over at least a six (6) year period by an official of the Florida College of Natural Health who took foreign students’ fees and tuition and either did not actually enrolled them in the college or later destroyed their enrollment records. The foreign students had attended accredited colleges in other states and were told that they could transfer the credits from the other schools to FCNH if they enrolled and paid tuition and fees. The college official then apparently embezzled the money from the college, and issued phony degrees and certificates to the foreign students. When FCNH found out, it is alleged in the amended complaint, it did not report the college official to law enforcement but, instead, blamed the foreign students claiming they knowing purchased phony credentials from the college official. It reported them to the Florida Department of Health to revoke their licenses. Based on these facts, the Florida Department of Health wrongfully issued hundreds of emergency suspension orders and administrative complaints against the victims, further victimizing them, the complaint alleges.
The defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint on multiple grounds. A hearing was held before U.S. District Court Judge Roy B. Dalton on July 30, 2015. At the hearing, Judge Dalton denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss against FCNH, Inc, for each of the eight (8) counts of the amended complaint. Plaintiffs’ counsel agreed to dismiss several of the Steiner defendants from the case, without prejudice, pending the outcome of discovery. Those defendants may later be added back in to the suit once additional discovery has been conducted.
Attorney George F. Indest III, President of The Health Law Firm, and the attorney to file the class action case stated: “This is a big victory for the plaintiffs. It is a disgrace that foreign students seeking a better life in the U.S. should have been victimized like this. And then victimized for a second time by the school responsible for it.”
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The Health Law Firm was established in 1999, bringing together a team of experienced attorneys with decades of work in the legal and healthcare fields. With offices in Florida and Colorado, the firm represents healthcare providers, including hospitals, nursing homes, physicians, dentists, mental health professionals and other licensed health professionals and entities. For more information about The Health Law Firm, visit our website at http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com.
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George F. Indest III
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