Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

by
J.B. was born four weeks prematurely but progressed normally. At his four-month well-baby visit, J.B. was healthy, with normal chest and lungs and no fever, nasal congestion, or cough; J.B. received vaccinations for diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis, inactivated polio, pneumococcal conjugate, rotavirus, and Hepatitis B. That evening, J.B. reportedly had a fever. At 4:00 AM and 8 AM, J.B.’s parents gave him Advil. In the early afternoon, J.B.’s father put him down for a nap on his back in his crib. J.B.’s mother checked on him and found him unresponsive on his right side. At 2:39 PM, J.B.’s mother called 911 and attempted CPR. Responders transported J.B. to the hospital. J.B. was pronounced dead at 4:01 PM. His crib contained soft blankets and a flat soft pillow but no clutter or toys. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was SIDS. In a case under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. 300aa-1, a Special Master found that the parents were entitled to compensation. The Claims Court reversed and the Federal Circuit agreed, holding that the Special Master erred by lowering the standard of proof for causation in a case involving an injury not listed on the Vaccine Act Injury Table. The parents failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that vaccinations can and did cause or contribute to J.B.’s SIDS death. View "Boatmon v. Secretary of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

by
The State and City of New York filed suit charging UPS with violating the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA), the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act), and New York Public Health Law 1399-ll (PHL 1399-ll), as well as breaching its settlement agreement, the Assurance of Discontinuance (AOD), with the New York State Attorney General. The court held that UPS did not honor the AOD and was therefore subject to liability under the PACT Act and PHL 139-ll; UPS was liable for violations of the AOD's audit requirement; and UPS violated the CCTA by knowingly transporting more than 10,000 unstamped cigarettes. In regard to damages and penalties awards, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing plaintiffs to present their damages case nor did it clearly err in making factual findings based on record evidence; the district court erred in awarding plaintiffs only half of the unpaid taxes on cigarettes UPS unlawfully shipped; and the district court abused its discretion in awarding per-violation penalties under both the PACT Act and PHL 1399-ll. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of liability and attendant penalties under PHL 1399-ll; affirmed the judgment of liability, but vacated the imposition of the penalties under the PACT Act; affirmed the judgment of liability, but modified the award of damages under the CCTA; affirmed the judgment of liability, but modified the award of penalties under the AOD; and affirmed the judgment as modified. View "New York v. United Parcel Service, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Coleman challenged the Commission's decision that its 18 working-days-late response to a citation notice that had been misplaced in the company's internal mail system demonstrated inexcusable neglect and barred the company from contesting the citations for nearly $70,000. The Fifth Circuit held that the Commission's decision misapplied Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), which applied under the Commission's own regulations. The court held that the equities weighed in favor of the Company having an opportunity to assert its defenses in OSHA's administrative proceedings. Therefore, the Commission's contrary determination denying relief from the untimely filing was legally in error and an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court vacated that decision, remanding for a hearing on the merits of the OSHA violations. View "Coleman Hammons Construction Co. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

by
MHA filed suit challenging the part of DSH's 2017 Rule defining "costs incurred" as "costs net of third-party payments, including, but not limited to, payments by Medicare and private insurance." The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for MHA, holding that the statute did not delegate to the Secretary unfettered discretion to determine "costs incurred;" the terms "costs incurred" and "net of payments" have plain, unambiguous meanings; and MHA's interpretation of "costs" and "payments" was not plainly mandated by the structure of the statute. Therefore, the court held that the Secretary's interpretation was reasonable in light of the statute's purpose and design. Under Missouri's plan, the court explained that the State redistributes overpayments above a particular hospital's DSH annual limit proportionately among other DSH hospitals that are below their hospital-specific limits, redistributions that should benefit the most imperiled DSH members of the MHA. View "Missouri Hospital Assoc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of Healthport's motion for summary judgment in an action involving claims of excessive charges for medical records under the New York Public Health Law. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment, because the court anticipates certifying certain questions to the New York Court of Appeals after a final judgment is entered, and wishes to avoid multiple, unnecessary proceedings. Therefore, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to reinstate Beth Israel as a party and to adjudicate the case to a final judgment. The court also remanded along the lines of the procedures set out in United States v. Jacobson, 15 F.3d 19, 22 (2d Cir. 1994), so that any new appeal will be referred to this panel. View "Ruzhinskaya v. HealthPort Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order reappointing the public guardian of the county as conservator of D.P. under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, because D.P. was gravely disabled as a result of a mental disorder. In the published portion of the opinion, the court held that the trial court properly instructed the jury using the applicable statutory definition of gravely disabled. View "Conservatorship of D.P." on Justia Law

by
In this action seeking a declaration that the University of Kentucky is not an agency within the executive branch the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's decision that sovereign immunity did not bar this action against the University but reversed the court's holding that the University is not within the executive branch. The University referred Plaintiff's delinquent UK HealthCare accounts to the Commonwealth, Department of Revenue for collection. The Department's collection efforts included imposition of a twenty-five percent collection fee and interest and garnishment of Plaintiff's paychecks, bank accounts, and tax refunds. Plaintiff petitioned for a declaration that the University was not an agency within the executive branch, as required by Ky. Rev. Stat. 45.237(1)(a), and therefore was not authorized to refer its accounts to the Department. The circuit court trial court granted Plaintiff's motion for declaratory judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the University is within the executive branch of the state government for purposes of Ky. Rev. Stat. 45.237 et seq.; and (2) sovereign immunity did not bar this declaratory judgment action. View "University of Kentucky v. Moore" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit challenging South Carolina's decision to terminate PPSAT's provider agreement because it offers abortion services. At issue was whether, and on what basis, the Medicaid Act's free-choice-of-provider provision affords a private right of action to challenge a state’s exclusion of a healthcare provider from its Medicaid roster. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction in favor of plaintiff and held that Congress's intent to create an individual right enforceable under 42 U.S.C. 1983 in the free-choice-provider provision is unambiguous. The court also held that a plain-language reading of the provision's mandate—that states "must" furnish Medicaid recipients the right to choose among providers "qualified to perform the service or services required"—bars states from excluding providers for reasons unrelated to professional competency. Because the individual plaintiff in this case has a private right of action to challenge South Carolina's denial of her right to the qualified and willing family-planning provider of her choice, the court agreed with the district court that she has demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on her free-choice-of-provider claim. Furthermore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in enjoining South Carolina from terminating PPSAT's provider agreement; it was clear that plaintiff would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction; and the remaining preliminary injunction factors were satisfied. View "Planned Parenthood South Atlantic v. Baker" on Justia Law

by
Forest Laboratories, LLC ("Forest"), filed a permissive appeal pursuant to Rule 5, Ala. R. App. P., of an Alabama circuit court's order denying it summary judgment. Forest manufactured and marketed Lexapro, a drug prescribed for depression, and Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ("FPI") sold and distributed Lexapro. In 2015, Elias Joubran's physician prescribed Lexapro for Elias's depression. Elias's prescription was filled with generic escitalopram that was manufactured and sold by a company other than Forest. On December 30, 2015, Elias entered the house belonging to him and his wife, Sheila Joubran; he shot and killed Sheila, then shot and killed himself. Kevin Feheley, Sr., serving as personal representative of Shiela's estate, sued Mary Jourbran in her capacity as the personal representative of Elias's estate. Forest, FPI and several fictitiously named defendants were included in the suit. The complaint alleged that, at the time of the murder/suicide, Elias was under prescription for pharmaceuticals manufactured by defendants, including Forest and FPI, and that "Forest's Lexapro[] enhanced, enabled and aggravated [Elias's] depression and violent behaviors." The Alabama Legislature enacted section 6-5-530, Ala. Code 1975, "on the heels" of the Alabama Supreme Court's decision in Wyeth, Inc. v. Weeks, 159 So. 3d 649 (2014). In addressing the Weeks decision, section 6-5-530 specifically provided that a plaintiff who is suing based on personal injury, death, or property damage caused by a product "must prove ... that the defendant designed, manufactured, sold, or leased the particular product the use of which is alleged to have caused the injury on which the claim is based" regardless of the type of claims or theory of liability the plaintiff asserts. Because this case was a permissive appeal, the questions before the Supreme Court were limited to whether 6-5-530 effectively overruled Weeks, and whether a manufacturer could be held liable for an injury caused by a product it did not manufacture. The Court determined Section 6-5-530 abrogated Weeks: a pharmaceutical manufacturer cannot be held liable for injury caused by a product it did not manufacture. Based on the Court's answer to the trial court's certified question in the permissive appeal, it reversed the trial court's order denying Forest's motion for a summary judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Forest Laboratories, LLC v. Feheley, Sr." on Justia Law

by
States may provide certain home-based services through Medicaid's Home and Community Based Waiver program, 42 U.S.C. 1396n(c). Illinois operates a waiver under which it contracts with non-profit organizations (ISCs) to provide case management services for adults with developmental disabilities receiving home- and community-based services as part of Medicaid. Illinois awarded 17 ISC contracts through a non-competitive, annual renewal process. The plaintiffs had received contracts for at least 25 years. In 2018, the state announced a new competitive bidding process to begin on July 1, 2019. The plaintiffs submitted bids but learned in January that their contracts would not be renewed. They sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of Medicaid’s free-choice-of-provider provision, 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(23). On June 5, 2019, with new contracts to go into effect in less than 30 days, they sought a preliminary injunction. The district court denied their motion on June 25, reasoning that ISCs were not “qualified providers” under the statute. The plaintiffs appealed that same day. Four days later, they sought emergency injunctive relief pending appeal, which the Seventh Circuit denied. Months later, at oral argument, plaintiffs’ counsel acknowledged that vacating the new contracts would be too disruptive. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal. With the plaintiffs no longer challenging the denial of their preliminary injunction, it is unnecessary to address the meaning of “qualified providers” or determine what kinds of services the plaintiffs provide. The passage of time has rendered the issue moot. View "Western Illinois Service Coordination v. Illinois Department of Human Services" on Justia Law