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A U.S. Supreme Court case involving water treatment, warfare and Iraq might not seem like litigation that would affect healthcare leaders, but those leaders have concerns about whether a high-court ruling could extend statutes of limitations in fraud cases, opening up healthcare organizations to more lawsuits.

The American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America were among a number of groups that filed a brief with the Supreme Court in September arguing that a lower court's ruling has the potential to extend statutes of limitations for fraud cases indefinitely. They also worry that another part of the ruling would allow whistle-blowers to file streams of repetitive lawsuits, according to the brief.

At issue in the case is whether a Kellogg, Brown & Root Services employee, Benjamin Carter, who works in Iraq, can sue the company under the False Claims Act. Carter alleges that the company billed the government for purifying and testing contaminated water when it was not actually doing so.

Lawyers for Carter believe that the statute of limitations portion of the lower court ruling applies only to war-related frauds, not other matters such as healthcare.

David Chizewer, a principal at Goldberg Kohn, said it's unlikely that the court will address whether the law applies only to war-related fraud cases or to all fraud cases, since that is not the question before the court.