Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

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A group of individuals filed a lawsuit against Genzyme Corporation, a drug manufacturer, for injuries allegedly caused by the company's mishandling of a prescription drug shortage between 2009 and 2012. The lawsuit was filed several years after the events in question occurred and would typically have been considered too late under the applicable statutory limitations periods. However, the plaintiffs argued that previous class actions, a savings statute, and a tolling agreement between the parties allowed the lawsuit to proceed. The district court partially agreed and rejected Genzyme's argument that the delay in filing required dismissal of the lawsuit. However, it dismissed the claims of all but four plaintiffs for lack of standing, and dismissed the remaining claims on the merits.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that all plaintiffs have standing and the court has jurisdiction to proceed with the case, at least with respect to the plaintiffs' individual claims. However, it concluded that four plaintiffs waited too long before filing this lawsuit, and their claims are time-barred. For the remaining plaintiffs, the court vacated the judgment dismissing their claims and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Wilkins v. Genzyme Corporation" on Justia Law

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The case concerns an appeal by Andrew Ocanas Garza against his conviction and a 235-month sentence for drug trafficking and firearm possession. Garza argued that the court incorrectly used his 2016 felony drug offenses for sentencing enhancement, contending that the 2018 amendment to the Agricultural Improvement Act altered marijuana’s definition, potentially excluding the substance he was previously convicted for trafficking. He also claimed that the court erred by not suppressing an unMirandized statement he made about having a gun in his bedroom during the execution of a search warrant.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Court's ruling. The Appeals Court held that Garza waived his right to challenge the admission of the Bedroom Gun statement by bringing it up during the trial. The Court also rejected Garza's argument concerning the sentencing enhancement based on his 2016 drug convictions. The Court applied the "backward-looking" test, which determines whether the prior convictions were felonies at the time of conviction and were final at the time of sentencing for the current crimes. The Court found that Garza's 2016 convictions met these criteria, making them applicable for sentencing enhancement. The Court also noted that even if the District Court had erred in applying the sentencing enhancement, the error was harmless, as the same sentence would have been imposed. View "United States v. Garza" on Justia Law

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Catherine Brennan, after being prescribed psychotropic medications due to a stressful job transition, began to experience symptoms of akathisia, a neuropsychiatric syndrome associated with psychomotor restlessness often seen in individuals using antipsychotic medications. Despite having no prior history of mental illness, Brennan was treated by multiple providers and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and generalized anxiety disorder between 2015 and 2018. In 2019, Brennan was committed due to displaying signs of mental health decompensation. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder involving current manic episodes with psychotic features, suicidal ideations, and medication noncompliance. Brennan was committed for a period of six months. After this commitment, she commenced a federal action alleging wrongful commitment and unlawful forced medication, arguing that her symptoms were side effects of the prescribed medications and were mistaken for psychosis and mania.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, however, upheld the district court's dismissal of Brennan's claims. The court held that Brennan could not proceed with her wrongful commitment claim because her commitment order was still valid, as per the precedent set in Heck v. Humphrey and Thomas v. Eschen. Regarding Brennan's claim of forcible administration of neuroleptic medications, the court found that Brennan failed to show deliberate indifference on the part of the defendants. The court noted that deliberate indifference is more than negligence and requires a plaintiff to show that an objectively serious medical need was knowingly disregarded by the defendants. The court ruled that Brennan did not adequately plead deliberate indifference as she failed to identify how her care exceeded gross negligence or demonstrate when the defendants knew or should have known that her psychiatric problems were the result of akathisia and not mental illness. The court thus affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing Brennan's claims. View "Brennan v. Cass County Health" on Justia Law

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The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the convictions of Gregory Paul Ulrich for first-degree premeditated murder, attempted first-degree premeditated murder, and discharge of an explosive or incendiary device. Ulrich had targeted the Allina Health clinic in Wright County, where he had been treated, because he was dissatisfied with his medical care and blamed the clinic for his chronic pain. He had recorded videos threatening the clinic, purchased a gun and supplies for making pipe bombs, and then carried out an attack at the clinic, shooting several people and detonating three pipe bombs. On appeal, Ulrich argued that the lower court had abused its discretion by denying his motions to strike a juror for cause and to change the venue, and that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. The Supreme Court ruled that the lower court had not abused its discretion because the juror had not expressed actual bias requiring either rehabilitation or removal, and because Ulrich had not renewed his motion to change the venue after voir dire, thereby forfeiting his right to contest the denial of his motion. The Supreme Court also ruled that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions because it supported a reasonable inference that Ulrich had planned the attack and believed that it would cause the victims' deaths. View "State v. Ulrich" on Justia Law

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In the State of California, a criminal defendant diagnosed with a mental disorder can be placed on mental health diversion under Penal Code section 1001.36. The provision allows such defendants to receive treatment for their mental illness and potentially avoid prosecution. However, the court may reinstate charges if the defendant's behavior while on diversion renders them unsuitable for the program. This case involved a defendant, Jasmen Lavar Hall, who was charged with carjacking and related offenses. After being placed on mental health diversion, Hall was expelled from his residential treatment program for threatening and assaulting other patients and destroying property. Following this behavior, Hall went missing for approximately six months before being apprehended. The trial court subsequently terminated Hall's diversion and reinstated the criminal proceedings. After a jury trial, Hall was convicted of the carjacking-related offenses and sentenced to an aggregate sentence of seven years eight months in prison. Hall argued that the court erred in reinstating the criminal proceedings because his actions did not meet the statutory criteria for having his diversion terminated. The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division One disagreed, ruling that Hall's violent conduct and failure to comply with his treatment obligations rendered him unsuitable for diversion under Penal Code section 1001.36, subdivision (g)(3). The court therefore held that the trial court did not err in terminating Hall's diversion and reinstating the criminal proceedings, and it affirmed the judgment of conviction. View "People v. Hall" on Justia Law

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In a healthcare fraud case involving Medicare kickbacks, defendants Lindell King and Ynedra Diggs appealed their convictions and sentences. They challenged the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas's decision to admit recordings involving them and other co-conspirators, and disputed the court's calculation of the improper benefit received for the purpose of their sentence, as well as the restitution award. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit examined these arguments and ruled in favor of the lower court.The defendants were accused of receiving bribes from a Medicare provider, Dr. Paulo Bettega, for referring Medicare beneficiaries to him for unnecessary treatment or non-provided treatment. The Court of Appeals rejected the defendants' Confrontation Clause arguments, stating the recordings were not testimonial and did not violate the Confrontation Clause. It further dismissed the defendants' assertion that the recordings were impermissible hearsay.Regarding the calculation of the improper benefit, the court concluded that the government had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the entire operation was fraudulent. The defendants failed to provide rebuttal evidence of any legitimate medical expenses that should offset the amount paid to Bettega for treatment provided to residents of their group homes.The Court of Appeals also upheld the restitution award. It rejected the defendants' argument that their maximum restitution was limited to the $70,000 they received in kickbacks. The court held the defendants jointly and severally liable for all foreseeable losses within the scope of their conspiracy.In conclusion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence of the district court, finding no error in its proceedings or decisions. View "USA v. King" on Justia Law

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The case involves Jennifer Garcia, who was charged with multiple counts, including making threats to a public officer, disobeying a court order, possessing a weapon in a courthouse, attempted murder, and assault with a deadly weapon. After her counsel declared doubt as to Garcia's mental competence, the trial court suspended the criminal proceedings for a determination of Garcia's mental competence. Based on the evaluations of a licensed psychiatrist and a licensed psychologist, the court found Garcia mentally incompetent to stand trial and lacking capacity to make decisions regarding the administration of antipsychotic medication. Garcia appealed the court's order authorizing the state hospital to involuntarily administer antipsychotic medication to her, alleging errors with the order and ineffective assistance of her trial counsel. The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, State of California, affirmed the trial court's order. The appellate court found that substantial evidence supported the trial court's order, the psychologist did not exceed the scope of her license in her evaluation, and the psychiatrist's opinion did not lack statutorily required information. The appellate court also found that the error in the trial court's form order was harmless and Garcia was not prejudiced by any ineffectiveness of her counsel. View "People v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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In a class action suit, the plaintiffs, a group of patients, alleged that the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), who operate the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), were in violation of Pennsylvania privacy law. The plaintiffs claimed that Penn Medicine shared sensitive health information and online activity of its patients with Facebook through its patient portal. Penn removed the case to federal court, asserting that it was "acting under" the federal government, referencing the federal-officer removal statute. However, the District Court rejected this argument and returned the case to state court.This case was primarily focused on whether Penn was "acting under" the federal government in its operation of Penn Medicine's patient portal. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision to remand the case back to state court. The Court of Appeals determined that Penn was not "acting under" the federal government, as it did not demonstrate that it was performing a delegated governmental task. The court declared that Penn was merely complying with federal laws and regulations, which does not qualify as "acting under" the federal government. The court noted that just because a private party has a contractual relationship with the federal government does not mean that it is "acting under" the federal authority. In conclusion, the court determined that the relationship between Penn and the federal government did not meet the requirements for Penn to be considered as "acting under" the federal government, thus the case was correctly returned to state court. View "Mohr v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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In this case, the parents of W.J., a young man with a chromosomal abnormality and autism, brought a case under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 against the Secretary of Health and Human Services, claiming that the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine administered to their son had caused or significantly aggravated his health issues. They filed their petition more than 15 years after the vaccine was administered, well beyond the Act's three-year statute of limitations. The parents argued that the statute of limitations should be equitably tolled due to their son's mental incapacitation, his minority status, and the government's alleged fraudulent concealment of a connection between the vaccine and autism.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Federal Claims, which had denied the parents' petition for review and confirmed a special master’s decision to dismiss the case as untimely. The court concluded that the mental incapacitation of the son did not qualify as an "extraordinary circumstance" warranting equitable tolling because the parents, as his legal guardians, had failed to demonstrate that they were unable to file a claim on his behalf. The court also rejected the arguments for minority tolling and fraudulent concealment, finding no basis for these in the Vaccine Act or its legislative history. The court further held that the special master had not erred in raising the issue of the statute of limitations, nor in dismissing the claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. View "W. J. v. Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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This case concerns the standard of review that the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health must apply when reviewing the decision of a hearing officer on an application for a certificate of need to establish a new health service. The Supreme Court of Georgia vacated the Court of Appeals’ judgment, set forth the standard applicable to the Commissioner’s review, and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court clarified that "competent substantial evidence" in the context of the Commissioner's review means evidence that is "relevant" such that "a reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support" a finding of fact, and that is admissible. The court also determined that the Commissioner must provide sufficient detail in his order from which a reviewing court can determine whether the Commissioner has or has not improperly substituted his judgment for the findings of fact of the hearing officer. View "VANTAGE CANCER CENTERS OF GEORGIA, LLC v. GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY HEALTH" on Justia Law