What is an administrative complaint?

If the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) believes an investigation has identified a violation of the Michigan Public Health Code (Public Health Code), then LARA will proceed to file an administrative complaint against the healthcare provider they believe has committed such a violation. Administrative complaints filed by LARA describe the alleged breach of the applicable standard of care or violation of Michigan law. In the administrative complaint, LARA is the complaining party, and the healthcare provider is referred to as the “respondent.”

When a healthcare provider receives an administrative complaint, the provider has a limited amount of time to respond in writing to that complaint. The healthcare provider’s written response to an administrative complaint will be reviewed by several individuals within LARA, and sometimes by an assistant attorney general and someone called a board conferee. The board conferee is a member of the relevant state board and is appointed to oversee the case.

A healthcare provider’s written response to an administrative complaint by LARA is often a very important document that can make a significant difference in the outcome of the licensing case. Such written response allows the healthcare provider to offer a concise presentation of the facts and issues, attach supporting documentation, and present the professional and the care provided in the most favorable light. A well-written response can help persuade LARA and the state board that the healthcare provider complied with the standard of care and applicable law under the relevant facts and circumstances. An experienced licensing defense attorney can offer valuable assistance in preparing a well-written and well-supported response and can thereby make a significant difference in obtaining the best outcome.

What is a Compliance Conference? 

After the written response to an administrative complaint is filed, the next formal step in the process is usually a compliance conference. The assistant attorney general representing LARA will normally work with legal counsel for the respondent, to identify a mutually convenient time and location to hold the compliance conference. LARA will be represented either by a person called an analyst or by an assistant attorney general. To simplify matters, this discussion assumes an assistant attorney general is representing LARA, although this discussion would also apply to situations in which an analyst is representing LARA.

The compliance conference is a confidential informal meeting between the respondent and his or her attorney, the assistant attorney general representing LARA, and usually also a board conferee. The compliance conference is often a very important step in the process and usually provides the respondent an opportunity to speak directly with the board conferee. This provides the respondent a flexible opportunity to explain and demonstrate the respondent’s compliance with the standard of care and applicable law, and to discuss any mitigating circumstances.

Before the compliance conference, the assistant attorney general and sometimes a board conferee will often formulate initial impressions about the details of the care that was provided and/or about whether there was fault involved, based on reading the written response to the administrative complaint. The time allowed for the compliance conference is limited, and therefore it is usually a significant advantage for the respondent to have retained legal counsel before the compliance conference, and to have filed a strong written response to the administrative complaint (before the compliance conference, with help from legal counsel), setting forth the facts and discussing the issues and attaching important records.

The compliance conference is often a very important event in the administrative process because it is the time when the case receives a great deal of attention and focus. The assistant attorney general and board conferee will usually confer shortly after the compliance conference, to discuss how the case might be resolved.  If the board conferee is convinced from the discussion at the compliance conference and the written response to the administrative complaint, that the respondent has complied with the standard of care and applicable law, then the assistant attorney general and board conferee will probably recommend to the board that the administrative complaint be dismissed without any sanction.

If the board conferee finds during the compliance conference or otherwise believes that the respondent did not comply with the Public Health Code, then the assistant attorney general will usually propose to resolve the case. Such a proposal could include one or more of a range of possible sanctions, including, but not limited to, a monetary fine, continuing education courses, probation, or suspension of the professional’s license.

What is an administrative hearing?

If the proposal of the assistant attorney general is not accepted by the respondent after the compliance conference, and if the case is not settled in subsequent negotiations, then the respondents have the right to defend the care they provided and their license at a formal administrative hearing. An administrative hearing is presided over by an administrative law judge who makes findings of fact and conclusions of law. The respondent has the right to appear at the administrative hearing with legal counsel, to present documents, to testify, to call witnesses on his or her behalf, and also to cross-examine witnesses called by LARA.

After an administrative law judge issues their written decision, the state board (for the respondent’s profession) has the right to accept or reject the administrative law judge’s decision and/or to render a different decision. The respondent has the right to appeal the decision of the board to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

For more information regarding an administrative complaint, compliance conference, or administrative hearing, please contact Douglas Vanden Berge at 616.233.5127 or dpvanden@rhoadesmckee.com.

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