Administrative Complaints and Hearings

As a licensed health care professional, an administrative complaint is one of the scariest things you’ll ever encounter, if you’re so unfortunate enough to receive one.

Imagine opening a letter and, within moments of reading the opening paragraph, realizing that your license is in jeopardy, your job may be at risk, and your professional reputation could be tarnished.

What you do in the next few days will greatly impact your future as a health professional and all that goes with it — including your ability to provide for yourself and your family.

What is an Administrative Complaint?

The U.S. Supreme Court in Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976) ruled that prior to the deprivation of a property right, a licensee (you) should be afforded “due process” under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Due process is defined as notice and an opportunity to be heard. Professional licenses are statutorily protected property interests and thus require due process before they can be revoked.

An administrative complaint satisfies the “notice” requirement of due process. The administrative complaint puts you on notice that the board believes there is probable cause that a violation of your professional code (for health professionals, this would be the public health code ) has been committed.

Who Puts Forth an Administrative Complaint?

In Florida, administrative complaints against doctors, nurses and other health professionals are filed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) on behalf of the boards (i.e., Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Pharmacy.). Hearings regarding the administrative complaint are held before your professional board or a judge with the Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH), depending on the type of hearing you elect.

In Michigan, administrative complaints are filed by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ (LARA) Bureau of Professional Licensing, on behalf of the professional boards. Similar to Florida, hearings in Michigan are held either before an administrative law judge or your professional board, depending on the type of hearing you elect.

Chart of the Administrative Complaint Process for Florida

Chart of the Administrative Complaint Process for Michigan

How Do I Respond to the Administrative Complaint?

Receiving an administrative complaint is similar to being sued, in that a response is required. If you don’t respond, you waive any defenses to the allegations set-forth in the administrative complaint, and you will be defaulted. Failure to submit a timely written response will result in the complaint being transmitted directly to the board’s disciplinary subcommittee for final sanction determination.

Health professionals should be aware that attempting to answer the complaint yourself could significantly impact your chances of getting the complaint dismissed or obtaining a reasonable settlement. A response must be worded carefully to preserve important issues in your case, but it still needs to be responsive to the allegations in the complaint.

When responding to an administrative complaint, attorneys should investigate the issue, gather vital records (such as employment files and medical records) to ensure that responses are truthful and accurate, and aid in the defense of the administrative complaint.

Should I Consult With an Attorney?

Absolutely.

Representing yourself in an administrative complaint generally does not yield good results. That’s because an assistant attorney general or corporation counsel will be representing the state, and he/she will often have significant experience in dealing with administrative complaints and experience in gaining sanctions against health professionals who choose to represent themselves.

Likewise, the professional boards’ primary duty is to protect the public, and they are very experienced in disciplinary proceedings.

You must fully present your argument in the best possible light to show that you are safe to practice and are not a danger to the public. You will be outmatched and ineffective in defending yourself against the board or state without the advice of a seasoned administrative law attorney.

What Are the Differences Between Each Type of Hearing?

Florida Informal Hearings (Board Hearings)

In Florida, when the Florida Department of Health (DOH) files an administrative complaint against a doctor, nurse or other health professional seeking to take action against their license, an Election of Rights form will accompany the copy of the complaint that is mailed to you. The form notifies the licensee of the right to a hearing and affords the licensee the option to select either an informal hearing or a formal hearing.

Informal hearings are held before the professional board (i.e. Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Pharmacy), whereas formal hearings are held before an administrative law judge. The primary difference is that informal hearings cannot determine facts, so informal hearings are elected primarily when the licensee does not dispute the facts alleged in the complaint, but wishes to ask the board for mercy (settlement, suspension, sanctions, etc.).

Informal hearings, also known as board hearings, are not the best option for most as there is usually a dispute between the parties regarding the facts alleged. Formal hearings are used when the facts are in dispute and the licensee seeks justice, such as a dismissal.

Michigan Informal Hearings (Compliance Conference and a Board Conferee)

For Michigan, after your attorney responds to the administrative complaint, he/she will have the option of electing to request a “compliance conference” with a “board conferee.” This simply means that settlement negotiations will begin with an informal meeting with a member of the board’s disciplinary subcommittee.

This person has authority to extend an offer on behalf of the board for consideration at a “compliance conference.” Representation at a “compliance conference” is vital because this may be your only chance to get the board to dismiss your case or offer you an acceptable settlement prior to a formal administrative hearing.

It is important to note that, should you reach an agreement at a compliance conference, the board’s disciplinary subcommittee must still vote to accept the agreement between you and the conferee, which is called a “consent agreement.”

More about Florida and Michigan Board of Medicine hearings
More about Florida and Michigan Board of Nursing hearings

Should I Request a Formal Administrative Hearing Over an Informal Hearing?

Yes. A formal administrative hearing should always be requested in response to an administrative complaint.

This is because an administrative hearing satisfies the “opportunity to be heard” requirement mentioned in Matthews v. Eldridge. If you do not exercise your right to a formal administrative hearing, the board will be permitted to view your complaint and the evidence against you gathered by state investigators as true — and you will lose the right to test the allegations at a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.

What Are the Possible Outcomes?

Outcomes from an administrative hearing include:

      • Reprimand
      • Fines/costs
      • Probation
      • Suspension or revocation of license
      • Dismissal
      • Settlement

What Are the Potential Collateral Consequences if a Final Action is Taken?

Can the Chapman Law Group Healthcare Attorneys Help?

Yes. We at Chapman Law Group are dedicated solely to licensed health care professionals. We work aggressively to protect the licenses of our clients; in fact, several of our attorneys practice professional licensing defense full time.

Each lawyer in our professional licensing defense practice group works with physicians, nurses, pain management clinics, pharmacists and other licensed healthcare professionals. We serve clients in Michigan (Detroit, Troy, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Lansing) and Florida (Miami, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville).

If you received an administrative complaint, contact us immediately. We will review your case at once and put our know-how to work in resolving your complaint.

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