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Baptist Health System, Inc., d/b/a Walker Baptist Medical Center ("WBMC"), appealed a circuit court's denial of its postjudgment motion seeking relief from the judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of Armando Cantu ("Armando"), as father and next friend of Daniel Jose Cantu ("Daniel"), a minor, on Armando's medical-malpractice claim. In 2009, Armando and his wife, Eulalia, took then three-month-old Daniel to WBMC's emergency room for treatment following symptoms including decreased appetite, coughing, and a fever that had lingered for several days. At that time, Daniel was diagnosed by the attending emergency-room physician as suffering from a viral illness (specifically, an upper-respiratory infection) and was discharged with instructions to continue fluids and to seek further treatment if the symptoms continued. Thereafter, Daniel's condition allegedly further deteriorated into vomiting, suspected dehydration, decreased activity, and "irritab[ility] whenever his neck was touched." Daniel received a second-opinion from his pediatrician, who performed a "spinal tap," revealing Daniel had bacterial meningitis. Daniel was taken to Children's Hospital in Birmingham, where he was treated with antibiotics, and released with a "discharge diagnosis" of: "meningococcal meningitis, hydrocephalus status post ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement, seizure disorder, blindness, and deafness as a result of bacterial meningitis." In October 2011, Armando sued both WBMC and Dr. James Wilbanks (the attending physician at Daniel's first trip to the Emergency Room), alleging a single count pursuant to Alabama's Medical Liability Act. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict finding that Dr. Wilbanks's actions did not meet the applicable standard of care, found WBMC liable for the conduct of Dr. Wilbanks, and awarded Armando $10,000,000 in damages. WBMC filed a postjudgment motion seeking a judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. Among the other claims included in that motion, WBMC specifically asserted that it was entitled to a new trial based on the trial court's admission, over WBMC's objections, of evidence of prior medical-malpractice lawsuits filed against WBMC. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the facts related to the jury regarding prior acts and omissions by WBMC were entirely irrelevant for the purpose of curative admissibility, were highly prejudicial to WBMC, and warranted reversal of the judgment against WBMC. The judgment of the trial court was, therefore, reversed, and the case remanded for a new trial. View "Baptist Health System, Inc. v. Cantu" on Justia Law

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The Appellate Division erred in summarily dismissing F.C.’s appeal from a terminated commitment and treatment order as moot in reliance on Matter of N.L., 476 Mass. 632, 633 (2017). Following F.C.’s involuntary hospitalization, McLean Hospital filed a petition for F.C.'s commitment. F.C. was involuntarily committed and treated after a hearing. F.C. appealed, and his appeal was staying pending the decision in Matter of N.L. As the appeal was pending, F.C. was discharged from the facility. Citing Matter of N.L., the Appellate Division summarily dismissed the appeal as moot. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the Appellate Division’s order and remanded for determination of the appeal on its merits, holding that appeals from expired or terminated commitment and treatment orders under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7, 8, and 8B should not be dismissed as moot where the parties have a continuing interest in the case. View "In re F.C." on Justia Law

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In this involuntary civil commitment proceeding, the trial court accepted an invalid waiver of A.A.’s right to personal appear, and that error was not harmless. A.A.’s attorney waived A.A.’s right to appear, and the involuntary commitment hearing proceeded without him. The trial court ultimately ordered involuntary civil commitment. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to vacate the regular involuntary-commitment order, holding (1) a mentally competent civil-commitment respondent may relinquish the right to appear with a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver, but an attorney may not waive the right to appear on the respondent’s behalf; (2) if the trial court independently waives a respondent’s presence at a commitment hearing, it must do so at the outset of the proceeding; (3) an improper waiver determination is subject to harmless-error review; and (4) in this case, the trial court did not make a proper waiver finding at the outset of A.A.’s involuntary civil-commitment proceeding, and the error was not harmless. View "A.A. v. Eskenazi Health/Midtown CMHC" on Justia Law

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Sports Medicine performed shoulder surgery on “Joshua,” who was covered by a health insurance plan, and charged Joshua for the procedure. Because it did not participate in the insurers’ network, Sports Medicine was not limited to the insurer’s fee schedule and charged Joshua $58,400, submitting a claim in that amount to the insurers on Joshua’s behalf. The claim form indicated that Joshua had “authorize[d] payment of medical benefits.” The insurer processed Joshua’s claim according to its out-of-network cap of $2,633, applying his deductible of $2,000 and his 50% coinsurance of $316, issuing him a reimbursement check for the remaining $316, and informing him that he would still owe Sports Medicine the remaining $58,083. Sports Medicine appealed through the insurers’ internal administrative process and had Joshua sign an “Assignment of Benefits & Ltd. Power of Attorney.” Sports Medicine later sued for violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and breach of contract, citing public policy. The district court dismissed for lack of standing because Joshua’s insurance plan included an anti-assignment clause. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the anti-assignment clause is not inconsistent with ERISA and is enforceable. View "American Orthopedic & Sports Medicine v. Independence Blue Cross Blue Shield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Appellant’s petition for release and discharge from the custody of the Commissioner of Health and Human Services pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 15, 104-A. The Court held that, contrary to Appellant’s argument on appeal, the superior court applied the correct standard when it denied Appellant’s petition for release and discharge and properly denied the petition where Appellant failed to prove that he “may be released or discharged without likelihood that [he] will cause injury to [himself] or to others due to a mental disease or mental defect.” View "Begin v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue was the lawfulness of allowing a hospital to transfer a patient involuntarily to a skilled nursing facility in the absence of a guardianship. The Supreme Court held that the appointment of a guardian over an incapacitated person is necessary, but not by itself sufficient, to admit an incapacitated person to a nursing facility against his or her will, because such an admission requires an additional order by the court based on a specific finding that the admission is in the incapacitated person’s best interest. Specifically, the Court held that when a hospital patient refuses to consent to be transferred to a nursing facility, a judge may order the patient to be admitted to a nursing facility under the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code only if the judge (1) finds the patient to be an incapacitated person; (2) makes the other findings necessary to appoint a guardian under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 190B, 5-306(b); and (3) then grants the guardian specific authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 190B, 5-309(g) to admit the incapacitated person to a nursing facility after finding that such admission is in the incapacitated person’s best interest. View "In re Guardianship of D.C." on Justia Law

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This case raised issues concerning the legal obligations imposed on health care providers when a patient's health care directives conflict with the providers' opinions that the requested care would be medically ineffective and may cause harm. Elizabeth Alexander, a 70-year-old woman suffering from end-stage terminal pancreatic cancer, died four days after she was transferred from a skilled nursing facility to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla (Scripps). Elizabeth had an advance health care directive stating she wanted all measures taken to prolong her life. Defendants declined to provide Elizabeth with certain advanced life support measures on the basis that such measures would have been ineffective and caused her to suffer further harm. After Elizabeth's death, her estate (Estate) and children, Clenton Alexander, Christopher Alexander, and Jacquelyn McDermet (together, Plaintiffs), sued Scripps and numerous medical professionals, alleging Elizabeth died after defendants failed to provide the life-sustaining treatment and comfort care requested in her advance health care directive. The trial court resolved Plaintiffs' claims in favor of Defendants either by sustaining demurrers or granting summary judgment. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly sustained Defendants' demurrers to Plaintiffs' causes of action for elder abuse because Plaintiffs did not allege Defendants' conduct was sufficiently egregious to constitute elder abuse within meaning of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, and Plaintiffs did not meet the pleading requirements for their elder abuse claims. Plaintiffs' allegations, at best, stated a claim for professional negligence; the Court concluded the trial court properly granted Defendants summary judgment. On Plaintiffs' professional negligence and wrongful death claims, they could not defeat summary judgment because their expert did not set forth sufficient reasoning or explanation for his opinion that Defendants' breaches of the standard of care and violations of the Probate Code caused Elizabeth injury or death. Plaintiffs' negligent misrepresentation claims failed because the statements they relied upon were not positive assertions by Defendants, and Plaintiffs did not justifiably rely on Defendants' statements. The Court found Defendants were immune from liability under section 4740 for alleged violations of sections 4730 concerning communication of health care decisions; 4732 concerning recordation of information about a patient's capacity; 4736 concerning a health care provider's or institution's duties upon declining to comply with a patient's health care instructions; and 4742, subdivision (b) concerning liability for concealing or coercing or fraudulently inducing an individual to change an advance health care directive. View "Alexander v. Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment of dismissal based on the sustaining of a demurrer to plaintiffs' class action complaint under the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, challenging the Proposition 65 warning provided by defendants for wines that contain purportedly unsafe levels of inorganic arsenic. The court held that the trial court properly sustained the demurrer based on the trial court's reasoning that disclosure of chemical ingredients in alcoholic beverages was not a requirement of the Act, and compliance with Proposition 65 was established as a matter of law where, as here, it was undisputed that the safe harbor warning for alcoholic beverages was provided to consumers of defendants' wines. The court also held that the demurrer would properly be sustained on res judicata grounds. View "Charles v. Sutter Home Winery, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mimms, an Indiana-licensed physician, prescribes controlled substances to patients. Several times, CVS Pharmacy employees informed Mimms’s patients that they would not fill their prescriptions. Mimms sued, alleging defamation. CVS argued that Mimms had no evidence that the speakers knew their statements were false. The court granted summary judgment as to five statements and denied judgment for four statements, reasoning there was a material question of fact regarding whether the speakers knew that their statements were false, given evidence that CVS’s corporate office had investigated Mimms and had not stopped stores from filling his prescriptions. The court rejected CVS’s argument that knowledge held by the corporate office could not be imputed to the speakers. The statements were: “CVS doesn’t fill Dr. Mimms’[s] prescriptions or prescriptions for any other pill mills.” “Mimms went to jail.” “Mimms has been … or will be arrested.” “Mimms is under DEA investigation. A jury found CVS liable for defamation per se and awarded Mimms $1,025,000. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Mimms proffered no evidence that the first three statements were made with actual malice. CVS is entitled to a new trial on the fourth statement; the court should have allowed CVS to present evidence that Mimms was the subject of a DEA investigation and regarding Mimms’s reputation. In a defamation per se case, damage to reputation is presumed but evidence regarding the extent of the harm to his professional reputation was critical for minimizing damages. View "Mimms v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court that reversed a decision by the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) to grant Petitioner’s application for a Health Care Certificate of Need (CON) on the basis that Petitioner’s application did not demonstrate a public need. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the DOH correctly applied its rules and regulations when it determined that the public need set forth in Petitioner’s application was appropriate; and (2) the DOH relied upon competent evidence for future public need in support of its decision to grant Petitioner’s CON application. View "Endoscopy Associates, Inc. v. Rhode Island Department of Health" on Justia Law