Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

by
The case revolves around Tokvan Ly, a man suffering from severe mental illness, who was incarcerated in the Scott County Jail. The district court found Ly incompetent to face criminal proceedings and ordered him committed to the care of the appellant, Jodi Harpstead, the Commissioner of Human Services. The law requires that persons in Ly's position be prioritized for admission to state-operated treatment programs and be admitted within 48 hours. However, Ly was not admitted within this timeframe. Fifteen days after his commitment, Ly remained in jail and was not receiving the specialized treatment needed for his severe mental illness. Consequently, he filed a petition for writs of mandamus and habeas corpus, alleging that the Commissioner was failing to comply with a mandatory duty to admit him to treatment within 48 hours under the Priority Admission statute and seeking damages resulting from his delayed admission to treatment.The district court issued a peremptory writ of mandamus that determined the Commissioner’s liability solely on the facts as alleged in Ly’s petition, and set the issue of mandamus damages for a fact trial. The Commissioner appealed the district court’s order, contending that she could immediately appeal the order before entry of final judgment. The court of appeals disagreed and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.The Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that the basis for appeal from an order issuing a peremptory writ of mandamus under Rule 103.03(g) has been extinguished, and that appeal must instead proceed from a final judgment under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.03(a). The court further concluded that an order issuing a peremptory writ is not appealable under Rule 103.03(a) as a form of irregular judgment, and that the district court order currently on appeal does not satisfy the finality requirement of that rule. However, the court invoked its inherent authority and its authority under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 102 to suspend the final judgment requirement of Rule 103.03(a), reverse the decision of the court of appeals, exercise jurisdiction over the Commissioner’s underlying appeal, and remand to the court of appeals to consider the merits of the appeal. View "Ly v. Harpstead" on Justia Law

by
In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of mifepristone tablets, marketed under the brand name Mifeprex, for terminating pregnancies up to seven weeks. The FDA imposed additional restrictions on the drug's use and distribution, including requiring doctors to prescribe or supervise the prescription of Mifeprex and requiring patients to have three in-person visits with the doctor to receive the drug. In 2016, the FDA relaxed some of these restrictions, and in 2021, it announced that it would no longer enforce the initial in-person visit requirement. Four pro-life medical associations and several individual doctors moved for a preliminary injunction that would require the FDA to either rescind approval of mifepristone or rescind the FDA’s 2016 and 2021 regulatory actions.The District Court agreed with the plaintiffs and effectively enjoined the FDA's approval of mifepristone, ordering it off the market. The FDA and Danco Laboratories, which sponsors Mifeprex, appealed and moved to stay the District Court’s order pending appeal. The Supreme Court ultimately stayed the District Court’s order pending the disposition of proceedings in the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court. On the merits, the Fifth Circuit held that plaintiffs had standing and concluded that plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on their challenge to FDA’s 2000 and 2019 drug approvals, but were likely to succeed in showing that FDA’s 2016 and 2021 actions were unlawful. The Supreme Court granted certiorari with respect to the 2016 and 2021 FDA actions.The Supreme Court of the United States held that the plaintiffs lack Article III standing to challenge the FDA’s actions regarding the regulation of mifepristone. The Court found that the plaintiffs, who are pro-life and oppose elective abortion, have sincere legal, moral, ideological, and policy objections to mifepristone being prescribed and used by others. However, because the plaintiffs do not prescribe or use mifepristone, they are unregulated parties who seek to challenge the FDA’s regulation of others. The Court concluded that the plaintiffs' theories of causation were insufficient to establish Article III standing. The Court reversed the judgment of the Fifth Circuit and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a lawsuit filed by Rosemary Lambert and Carolyn Hinzman, individually and as co-executors of the estate of Delmar P. Fields, against Eldercare of Jackson County, LLC, Community Health Association, and Dr. Irvin John Snyder. The plaintiffs allege that Mr. Fields contracted COVID-19 while a resident at Eldercare and died while under the care of Jackson General and Dr. Snyder. The defendants sought dismissal of the lawsuit, arguing that they were immune from liability under the COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act.The Circuit Court of Jackson County denied the defendants' motions to dismiss. The court interpreted the term "actual malice" in the COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act to mean that the defendant acted with the intent to injure or harm the plaintiff or decedent. The court found that the plaintiffs had alleged sufficient facts to survive a motion to dismiss.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia affirmed the lower court's decision in part and reversed in part. The court held that the term "actual malice" in the COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act means that the defendant acted with the deliberate intent to commit an injury, as evidenced by external circumstances. The court found that the plaintiffs had alleged sufficient facts to show that Eldercare engaged in intentional conduct with actual malice. However, the court found that the allegations against Jackson General Hospital and Dr. Snyder were insufficient to establish that they engaged in intentional conduct with actual malice. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Eldercare of Jackson County, LLC v. Lambert" on Justia Law

by
The case involves Dr. Peter Bolos, who was convicted of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, and felony misbranding as part of a complex scheme. Bolos purchased an interest in Florida-based pharmacy Synergy Pharmacy Services in 2013 and became the managing partner. Synergy signed an agreement with HealthRight, a telemarketing firm, to generate business. HealthRight used social media advertisements and large phone banks to generate potential clients for Synergy. The information collected from potential clients was forwarded to a licensed doctor in the patient’s home state for review. Most of these decisions were made without the doctor ever seeing or speaking to the patient. The doctors then sent the prescriptions to Synergy for filling.The District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee convicted Bolos on all counts after a four-week trial. Bolos appealed, arguing that his actions were not unlawful and that he was being unfairly held criminally culpable for contractual violations and others’ misconduct.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit disagreed with Bolos and affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that Bolos and Synergy leadership knew of the deficiencies in their business practices and either actively facilitated and furthered them or turned a blind eye, all in an effort to induce Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to pay Synergy. The court also held that the federal healthcare-fraud statute requires the government to prove that Bolos knowingly devised a scheme or artifice to defraud a health care benefit program in connection with the delivery of or payment for health care benefits, items, or services. The court found ample evidence in the record to support the jury’s finding that Bolos conspired to create a scheme with the intent to defraud the PBMs of their money. View "United States v. Bolos" on Justia Law

by
Nicole Costin, individually and on behalf of her minor son, filed a lawsuit against Glens Falls Hospital and several of its staff members. Costin alleged that the hospital discriminated against her due to her substance-abuse disorder, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. She also raised state-law claims. Costin's allegations included the hospital conducting drug tests without informed consent, reporting her to the New York State Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register based on a false positive drug test, withholding pain relief, accelerating her labor without consent, and refusing to correct their actions.The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed Costin’s action, concluding that she failed to plausibly allege that she was discriminated against due to her disability. The district court also declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her state-law claims.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court agreed with the lower court's dismissal of Costin’s claims related to the denial of an epidural, acceleration of labor, and treatment of her newborn. However, the court disagreed with the dismissal of Costin’s claims related to the hospital's instigation of a Child Protective Services investigation and its administration of a drug test. The court found that Costin had plausibly alleged that these actions were based on discriminatory policies, not medical decisions. The court also vacated the lower court's decision to decline supplemental jurisdiction over Costin’s state-law claims. View "Costin v. Glens Falls Hospital" on Justia Law

by
The case revolves around a dispute over the validity of a will. Robert Harrison Ashworth, the deceased, had four children: Christine, Gwendolyn, Brian, and Kimberly. In 2017, Ashworth, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, executed a will that divided his estate evenly among his four children and named his son, Brian, as the estate's personal representative. However, in 2022, Ashworth executed a new will that named Christine as the personal representative and included only Christine and Gwendolyn as beneficiaries, excluding Brian and Kimberly from any inheritance. After Ashworth's death, Christine submitted the 2022 will for probate. Brian contested its validity and sought access to medical records from the last eight years of Ashworth's life, arguing that the records would shed light on Ashworth's decision-making capacity at the time he executed his final will. Christine, however, refused to provide any medical records, citing the physician-patient privilege.The trial court ordered Christine to provide the medical records for an in camera review, stating that the court would not release any records unrelated to the mental capacity of the decedent. Christine petitioned the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado for relief from the trial court's order.The Supreme Court of the State of Colorado held that the physician-patient privilege survives the privilege holder's death, but the testamentary exception provides for disclosure of the decedent's privileged medical records if they are required to administer the estate. The court discharged the rule to show cause and lifted the stay on the trial court's in camera review of Ashworth's medical records. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Ashworth" on Justia Law

by
The case involves Robert Lewis Dear Jr., who was charged with attacking a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2015. Dear was found incompetent to stand trial due to a diagnosis of delusional disorder, persecutory type. Despite being found incompetent multiple times, the district court ordered Dear to be involuntarily medicated in an attempt to restore his competency, following a motion by the government.Previously, Dear had been in state custody for about four years, during which he was continually found incompetent to stand trial. In December 2019, the federal government indicted Dear on 68 counts. The government moved for a competency evaluation under 18 U.S.C. § 4241, which led to Dear being transferred to the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. There, a psychiatrist evaluated Dear and determined that although he remained incompetent due to his delusional disorder, he was substantially likely to be restored to competency through the administration of antipsychotics.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's order for involuntary medication. The court held that the district court made sufficiently detailed factual findings and that those findings were not clearly erroneous. The court placed greater weight on the government’s experts due to their extensive experience restoring competency and their personal experience observing and interacting with Dear. View "United States v. Dear" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a group of plaintiffs, including the Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc. and California Educators for Medical Freedom, who challenged the COVID-19 vaccination policy of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The policy, which was in effect for over two years, required employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination or lose their jobs. The plaintiffs argued that the policy interfered with their fundamental right to refuse medical treatment.The case was initially dismissed by the United States District Court for the Central District of California, which applied a rational basis review under Jacobson v. Massachusetts, concluding that the policy served a legitimate government purpose. The court held that even if the vaccine did not prevent transmission or contraction of COVID-19, it furthered the purpose of protecting LAUSD students and employees from COVID-19.The plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. During the appeal, LAUSD rescinded its vaccination policy. LAUSD then asked the court to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the case was now moot. The plaintiffs objected, arguing that LAUSD withdrew the policy because they feared an adverse ruling.The Ninth Circuit held that the case was not moot, applying the voluntary cessation exception to mootness. The court found that LAUSD's pattern of withdrawing and then reinstating its vaccination policies, particularly in response to litigation risk, was enough to keep the case alive.On the merits, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court misapplied the Supreme Court’s decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts. The court found that Jacobson did not apply because the plaintiffs had plausibly alleged that the COVID-19 vaccine does not effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19. The court vacated the district court’s order and remanded the case for further proceedings under the correct legal standard. View "HEALTH FREEDOM DEFENSE FUND, INC. V. ALBERTO CARVALHO" on Justia Law

by
The case involves two petitioners, Daniel Dilly, Superintendent of the Rubenstein Juvenile Center (RJC), and Nancy Oldaker, Health Services Administrator at RJC, who were held in contempt of court by Judge Kurt Hall of the Circuit Court of Lewis County, West Virginia. The contempt charges arose from an incident involving a resident of RJC, identified as D.P., who suffered a broken jaw during a fight with other residents. The court had ordered that D.P. be taken off RJC grounds for an X-ray and that his mother be notified of his medical appointments. The court found that these orders were not adequately followed by the petitioners.The Circuit Court of Lewis County held a hearing to review D.P.'s placement and medical care, resulting in a "Medical Care Order" that directed RJC to schedule an appointment for D.P. with his oral surgeon and to allow D.P.'s mother to attend the appointment. The court also ordered RJC to provide a report concerning the incident that led to D.P.'s injury. When these orders were not fully complied with, the court held a "show cause" hearing and found both Superintendent Dilly and Ms. Oldaker in contempt of court, fining each of them $250.The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia found that procedural errors in the lower court's contempt proceedings deprived the court of jurisdiction to impose such sanctions. The court noted that the lower court failed to provide the petitioners with adequate notice that they were facing indirect criminal contempt proceedings and did not afford them jury trials before imposing the fines. The court concluded that the contempt orders were void and granted the petitioners' requested writs of prohibition, thereby preventing the lower court from enforcing the contempt orders. View "State ex rel. Dilly v. Hall" on Justia Law

by
Barbara Harrison, a severely disabled individual, challenged the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's (HHSC) decision to deny funding for medical services she claimed were necessary for her survival. Harrison lived in a group home and received nursing services funded by HHSC’s program for providing home and community-based care to people with disabilities. However, when her condition deteriorated to the point where she required 24/7 one-on-one nursing care, HHSC determined that the cost of providing Harrison’s necessary level of care exceeded the cost cap set by the program. Harrison was therefore denied program-funded nursing services, meaning her only option for receiving government-funded medical care was to move to an institutional setting.Harrison challenged HHSC’s determination in court, arguing that HHSC discriminated against her because of her disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act, by denying her program-funded nursing services. The district court granted a preliminary injunction requiring HHSC to fund 24/7 one-on-one care for Harrison until she received a hearing on her request for general revenue funds. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction and remanded for further proceedings, holding that Harrison was unlikely to succeed on her due process claim and had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the ADA/Rehabilitation Act claims.After the case was remanded to the district court, Harrison submitted a new application to HHSC for 24-hour nursing care under the Program, the cost of which again exceeded the Cost Cap. HHSC determined that Harrison did not require 24-hour nursing care and that 5.5 hours of nursing care per day would be sufficient to meet her medical needs. The district court found that Harrison’s change in status— from receiving no Program funding to receiving some Program funding— mooted Harrison’s ADA/Rehabilitation Act claims. The court therefore dismissed them and then granted summary judgment to HHSC on Harrison’s due process claim. Harrison appealed this decision.The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to HHSC on Harrison’s due process claim but reversed the district court’s dismissal of Harrison’s discrimination claims. The court found that the district court’s mootness determination was erroneous and that the factual record was still not sufficiently developed to support a judgment as to Harrison’s discrimination claims. The case was remanded for further factfinding and proceedings. View "Harrison v. Young" on Justia Law