Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries
In re N.A.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court committing N.A. to Montana State Hospital (MSH) for a period of up to ninety days, holding that the district court committed reversible error when it allowed testimony by video conferencing at the commitment hearing over N.A.'s objection.The State filed a petition for N.A.'s involuntary commitment alleging that N.A. presented an imminent risk of harm to herself based upon her statements of suicidality. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court found that N.A. suffered from a mental disorder and required commitment and ordered that N.A. be involuntarily placed at MSH in Warm Springs for a period of up to ninety days. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court committed reversible error when it allowed testimony by video conferencing over N.A.'s objection. View "In re N.A." on Justia Law
Harvey v. Centura, No.
Peggy Harvey and Eileen Manzanares were injured in separate car accidents when their cars were struck by other drivers. Each was then taken to a Centura-affiliated hospital (along with Centura Health Corporation, “Centura”) for treatment. At the time they were treated by Centura, both women’s health insurance was solely through Medicare and Medicaid. And both women’s injuries resulted in hospital stays. In addition to Medicare and Medicaid, both women had automobile insurance whose policies included medical payment ("Med Pay") coverage for medical bills incurred as a result of a motor vehicle accident. In addition, the third-party tortfeasors who caused Harvey’s and Manzanares’s injuries also had automobile insurance. Both Harvey and Manzanares advised Centura of all of the available health and automobile insurance policies. Centura then assigned the women’s accounts to a collection agency, Avectus Healthcare Solutions, for processing; Avectus submitted Centura’s medical expenses to each of the automobile insurers involved, including the automobile insurers for Harvey, Manzanares, and the third-party tortfeasors. Within two weeks after submitting these charges to the various automobile insurers (and within two months of the women’s respective discharges from their hospital stays), Centura filed hospital liens against both of the women. Centura conceded it did not bill either Medicare or Medicaid before filing their respective liens. Both Harvey and Manzanares subsequently brought suit, alleging that Centura had violated the Lien Statute by not billing Medicare for the services provided to the women prior to filing the liens. The parties disputed whether when, as here, Medicare was a person’s principal source of health coverage, Medicare could be considered a “primary medical payer of benefits” under the Lien Statute (such that a hospital must bill Medicare before asserting a lien), or if such an interpretation was barred by the Medicare Secondary Payer statute, which designated Medicare as a “secondary payer.” The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that when Medicare was a patient’s primary health insurer, the Lien Statute required a hospital to bill Medicare for the medical services provided to the patient before asserting a lien against that patient. "Hospital liens are governed by state, not federal, law, and merely enforcing our Lien Statute does not make Medicare a primary payer of medical benefits in violation of the MSP Statute." View "Harvey v. Centura, No." on Justia Law
Association of American Physicians & Surgeons v. United States Food & Drug Administration
A drug manufacturer cannot distribute a drug in interstate commerce without obtaining the FDA’s approval for the uses listed on the drug’s official label, 21 U.S.C. 355(a). The Act does not prohibit doctors from prescribing FDA-approved drugs for “off-label” use but leaves the regulation of doctors to the states. Hydroxychloroquine is approved to treat malaria, lupus, and arthritis but not to treat COVID-19. In 2020, the FDA relied on then-available data and issued an Emergency Use Authorization, permitting hydroxychloroquine in the federal government’s strategic stockpile to be distributed to treat COVID-19 patients in limited circumstances.The Association, a nonprofit organization with physician members, sued, challenging restrictions barring use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 except for hospitalized patients. The Association alleged that these restrictions violated the implied equal-protection guarantee in the Fifth Amendment; violated the First Amendment right to associate by limiting access to medication useful for meeting in groups; and violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The Association alleged an injury to itself: it was considering canceling a conference purportedly due to the restrictions. It also invoked associational standing on behalf of its physician members who could not prescribe hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.The district court held that none of these injuries plausibly pleaded the Association’s standing to challenge the Authorization. The court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Associaiton failed to plausibly plead that any member has been injured by the FDA’s actions. View "Association of American Physicians & Surgeons v. United States Food & Drug Administration" on Justia Law
K.J. v. Superintendent of Bridgewater State Hospital
The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Commissioner of Correction's exercise of the "commissioner's certification" provision in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 18(a) to retain K.J. at Bridgewater State Hospital violated article 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.K.J., an adult man who faced criminal charges in the district court and the superior court, was committed involuntarily to Bridgewater. The commitment was subsequently extended. This appeal concerned the medical director of Bridgewater's most recent petition to have K.J. again recommitted for one year under section 18(a). The judge found that K.J. did not require strict custody and therefore, as required by section 18(a), issued an order committing K.J. to a lower security Department of Mental Health (DMH) facility. Despite that order, the Commissioner exercised the "commissioner's certification" provision in section 18(a) to retain K.J. at Bridgewater. The Supreme Judicial Court ordered that K.J. be transferred to a DMH facility, holding (1) the commissioner's certification provision of section 18(a) violates article 30; and (2) the remainder of section 18(a) is capable of separation. View "K.J. v. Superintendent of Bridgewater State Hospital" on Justia Law
Brooks v. CDOC, et al.
At the time this appeal was initiated, Jason Brooks was a Colorado-state inmate serving a lengthy prison sentence for securities fraud. Brooks had an extreme and incurable case of ulcerative colitis: even when his disease was well treated, Brooks suffered from frequent, unpredictable fecal incontinence. This case involved the Colorado Department of Corrections’s (“CDOC”) efforts, or lack thereof, to deal with the impact of Brooks’s condition on his ability to access the prison cafeteria. Specifically, the issues presented centered on whether the district court erred when it concluded: (1) Brooks’s Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claim for damages failed because the CDOC’s offer to provide Brooks with adult diapers was a reasonable accommodation of Brooks’s disability; and (2) Brooks’s Eighth Amendment claim against ADA Inmate Coordinator Julie Russell failed because the decision not to access the cafeteria with the use of adult diapers was Brooks’s alone. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined the district court erred in its treatment of Brooks’s ADA claim for damages. "A reasonable juror could conclude the offer of adult diapers was not a reasonable accommodation of Brooks’s disability. Thus, at least as to the question of the reasonableness of the proposed accommodation, the district court erred in granting CDOC summary judgment on Brooks’s ADA claim for damages." On the other hand, the Court concluded the district court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Russell on Brooks’s Eighth Amendment claim: "the record is devoid of sufficient evidence for a jury to find Russell acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind—deliberate indifference to Brooks’s ability to access food—when she declined Brooks’s request for a movement pass." Accordingly, the Court dismissed in part, reversed in part, and remanded this matter to the district court for further proceedings. View "Brooks v. CDOC, et al." on Justia Law
Fay v. Merrill
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Defendant, Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State, intros action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to Defendant's change of the absentee ballot application for the August 11, 2020 primary election to add COVID-19 as a new reason for requesting an absentee ballot pursuant to Executive Order No. 7QQ, holding that the trial court did not err.At issue in this public interest appeal was whether Governor Ned Lamont's executive order, which was later ratified by the legislature and which modified Conn. Gen. Stat. 9-135 by adding COVID-19 as a permissible reason for absentee voting violates Conn. Const. art. VI, 7. The trial court granted jumtgnet for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Executive Order No. 7QQ does not violate Article 6, Section 7. View "Fay v. Merrill" on Justia Law
Wilson v. City of Columbia
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson sought a declaration by the South Carolina Supreme Court concerning the use of facemasks in the public schools of South Carolina during the coronavirus pandemic. The Court construed Proviso 117.190 of the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act relating to public institutions of higher learning, and determined from the language in that proviso that the University of South Carolina was not precluded from issuing a universal mask mandate that applied equally to vaccinated and unvaccinated students and faculty alike. This case involved a different proviso from the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act: Proviso 1.108, relating to public schools serving students grades kindergarten through 12 (K-12). Proviso 1.108 manifestly set forth the intent of the legislature to prohibit mask mandates funded by the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act in K-12 public schools. The Attorney General contended the City of Columbia passed ordinances in direct opposition to Proviso 1.108, mandating masks in all K-12 public schools in the City of Columbia. "While allowing school districts flexibility to encourage one policy or the other, the state legislature has elected to leave the ultimate decision to parents. Conversely, the City of Columbia has attempted to mandate masks for all school children by following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, which has the effect of disallowing parents a say in the matter." The Supreme Court upheld Proviso 1.108 and declared void the challenged ordinances of the City of Columbia insofar as they purported to impose a mask mandate in K-12 public schools. View "Wilson v. City of Columbia" on Justia Law
Kadel v. North Carolina State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees
Enrollees in the North Carolina State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees (NCSHP) sued, alleging that NCSHP discriminates against its transgender enrollees by categorically denying coverage for gender dysphoria treatments like counseling, hormone therapy, and surgical care, in violation of section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which prohibits “any health program or activity” that receives federal funds from discriminating against individuals on any ground prohibited by various federal statutes, including Title IX, 42 U.S.C. 18116(a).The Fourth Circuit affirmed the denial of NCSHP’s motion to dismiss, asserting that it was entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. NCSHP waived its immunity against this claim by accepting federal financial assistance. Under the Civil Rights Remedies Equalization Act (CRREA), “[a] State shall not be immune under the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States from suit in Federal court for a violation of . . . any other Federal Statute prohibiting discrimination by recipients of Federal financial assistance,” 42 U.S.C. 2000d-7. View "Kadel v. North Carolina State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees" on Justia Law
Green v. Healthcare Services
Barbara Green (Barbara) filed this wrongful death action after her son Jeffrey Green (Green) jumped from the roof of drug rehabilitation treatment facility Anaheim Lighthouse (Lighthouse), and ended his life. Lighthouse appealed the judgment following a jury verdict in Barbara’s favor. Specifically, it claimed the trial court committed reversible error by refusing to instruct the jury Green’s suicide was a superseding cause of harm and on premises liability. It also claimed the judgment should have been reversed because the court improperly allowed opinion testimony by an undisclosed rebuttal expert. After review, the Court of Appeal found no error and affirmed the judgment. View "Green v. Healthcare Services" on Justia Law
Porretti v. Dzurenda
Porretti, a 62-year-old prisoner, has suffered from serious mental illnesses—Tourette’s syndrome, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality disorder, and paranoid schizophrenia— throughout his life. Porretti’s mental illnesses have caused him to attempt suicide and to suffer psychotic symptoms, including compulsive ingestion of metal objects like razor blades, paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and verbal tics. Porretti received Wellbutrin and Seroquel for his mental illnesses before he was incarcerated in Nevada and after he entered into the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC). In 2017, without the recommendation of a healthcare provider, NDOC stopped providing his medication because of a new administrative policy.The Ninth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction requiring prison officials to provide Porretti’s Wellbutrin and Seroquel. The district court carefully applied the preliminary-injunction factors and rendered highly detailed factual findings that rejected opinions from NDOC’s experts for reasons grounded in the record evidence; Porrettif’s Eighth Amendment claim was likely to succeed on the merits and he would suffer irreparable harm in the form of “very serious or extreme damage to his mental health” if injunctive relief were not granted. Porretti’s severe and persistent psychotic symptoms overwhelmingly outweighed NDOC’s financial or logistical burdens in providing Wellbutrin and Seroquel. An injunction was in the public’s interest because prisons must comply with the standard of care mandated by the Eighth Amendment. View "Porretti v. Dzurenda" on Justia Law