Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit denied Southern Hens' petition for review of the ALJ's determination that the poultry processing plant committed two violations of occupational safety standards after an employee suffered a serious injury when her hand got caught in a machine's moving parts. The court upheld the ALJ's decision with regard to the lockout violation because Southern Hens lacked the sort of established work rule required for the "unpreventable employee misconduct" defense; upheld that machine-guarding standard and adopted the reasonably predictable standard, holding that there was substantial evidence that employee injury from the hazard was reasonably predictable; and upheld the penalties for the lockout violation and the machine-guarding violation. View "Southern Hens, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that women’s health insurance cover preventive health care. Health Resources and Services Administration guidelines indicate that preventative health care includes contraceptive care. Nonprofit religious entity employers could invoke "the Accommodation," which permits employers to send self-certification forms to their insurance issuers to exclude contraceptive coverage from the group health plan while providing payments for contraceptive services for plan participants and beneficiaries, separate from the group health plan, without the imposition of cost sharing, premium, fee, or other charge on plan participants or beneficiaries or on the eligible organization or its plan. Following Supreme Court decisions concerning ACA, the Accommodation was extended to for-profit entities that are not publicly traded, are majority-owned by a relatively small number of individuals, and that object to providing contraceptive coverage based on the owners’ religious beliefs. The district court entered a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the rule’s enforcement nationwide. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the agencies did not follow the Administrative Procedures Act and that the regulations are not authorized under the ACA or required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Sates will face unredressable financial consequences from subsidizing contraceptive services, providing funds for medical care associated with unintended pregnancies, and absorbing medical expenses arising from decreased use of contraceptives for other health conditions. The current Accommodation does not substantially burden employers’ religious exercise and its extension is not necessary to protect a legally-cognizable interest. The public interest favors minimizing harm to third-parties by ensuring that women who may lose ACA-guaranteed contraceptive coverage. View "Pennsylvania v. President of the United States" on Justia Law

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In May 2009 Jesse Collens, then 21 years old, was permanently injured in a bicycle accident that left him a C-1 quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down, and dependent on a ventilator to breathe. In December 2009 he contracted with Maxim Healthcare Services, a national healthcare corporation with a home healthcare division, to provide his nursing care. In late 2011 issues arose between Collens and Maxim over the company’s management of his care. These issues escalated, and in early March 2012, Alaina Adkins, Maxim’s Alaska office manager, met with Collens to discuss his main concerns with Maxim’s services. The following business day, Adkins emailed various members of Maxim’s legal and administrative staff about one of the issues Collens had raised. Internal concerns surfaced about the legal compliance of the staff working with Collens. In an email responding to the report, Maxim’s area vice president wrote, “We are in dangerous territory right now with the liability of this case and we are going to have to seriously consider discharge.” Collens’s care plan was subject to routine recertification every 60 days; Maxim’s Alaska Director of Clinical Services visited Collens’s house to complete the review necessary for this recertification, noting “discharge is not warranted.” Concurrent to the recertification, Adkins requested Maxim’s legal department provide her a draft discharge letter for Collens. The draft letter stated the discharge had been discussed with Collens’s physician and care coordinator and that they agreed with the discharge decision. But in fact neither approved the discharge. The draft letter also included a space for names of other entities that could provide the care needed by the patient. Adkins noted in an email to the legal department, “We already know that there are no providers in our area that provide this type of service.” The discharge letter she eventually delivered to Collens filled in the blank with four agency names. Adkins delivered and read aloud the discharge letter at Collens’s home on March 30. Collens sued Maxim and Adkins for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, unfair and deceptive acts and practices under Alaska’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). The superior court ruled for Collens on all his claims and entered a $20,379,727.96 judgment against Adkins and Maxim, which included attorney’s fees. Maxim and Adkins appealed, arguing that: (1) they were not liable under the UTPA; (2) the superior court erred in precluding their expert witnesses from testifying at trial; (3) the court’s damages award was excessive; and (4) the court’s attorney’s fee award was unreasonable. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed the superior court’s attorney’s fee award was unreasonable, but on all other issues it affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc. v. Collens" on Justia Law

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The Health Care Authority for Baptist Health, an affiliate of UAB Health Systems ("the Authority"), and Simeon Penton (collectively, "Baptist Health") appealed a circuit court judgment compelling Baptist Health to disclose certain documents to Central Alabama Radiation Oncology, LLC ("CARO"), under the auspices of the Alabama Open Records Act. CARO was a Montgomery-area radiation-oncology practice; CARO provided radiation and oncology services at the Montgomery Cancer Center ("MCC"), a facility owned and operated by the Authority. The Authority and CARO executed a noncompetition agreement in May 2012. In 2017, the Authority submitted a letter of intent to file a certificate-of-need ("CON") application with the State Health Planning and Development Agency ("SHPDA"). The letter of intent indicated that the Authority sought to offer radiation-oncology services at the Prattville location of MCC. CARO alleged it then attempted to persuade the Authority to use CARO physicians for radiation-oncology services at the Prattville location of MCC but that the Authority rebuffed CARO's overtures. In February 2018, the Authority filed its CON. Then in March 2018, the Authority notified CARO of the termination of the noncompetition agreement. A dispute arose and ended up in court. Counsel for the Authority sent CARO a letter requesting that CARO dismiss its action because, the Authority asserted, CARO's review of Board minutes confirmed that the Authority had not breached the noncompetition agreement by recruiting or employing radiation oncologists to work at the Prattville location of MCC. CARO asserted that redactions in the minutes included information relating to arrangements with medical oncologists, the Medicare 340B program, and the Authority's other proposed projects in the Prattville area. Counsel for the Authority contended that the remainder of the Board minutes and other documents CARO requested were "confidential and privileged and/or not subject to production under [the ORA]." The circuit court ultimately ordered unredacted minutes to be produced. The Alabama Supreme Court determined that although the Authority allowed CARO's counsel to review the unredacted Board minutes, it steadfastly refused to provide a copy of those unredacted minutes to CARO. Thus, the Authority plainly did not sufficiently comply with the ORA with respect to the Board minutes, and the circuit court did not exceed the scope of the ORA in ordering the records disclosed. View "Health Care Authority for Baptist Health v. Central Alabama Radiation Oncology, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of a "senior adult congregate living facility" on Plaintiff's complaint alleging that the facility would not return her mother's entrance fee or supplemental amount when her mother had to vacate the facility for health reasons, holding that the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the facility. In her complaint, Plaintiff, on behalf of her mother, argued that the agreement between her mother and the facility violated the Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (IURLTA), Iowa Code chapter 562A, and alleged several other claims, including consumer fraud, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary duty, and unconscionability. The district court held that the IURLA did not apply to the facility and that the facility was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the remaining claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the fees regulated under Iowa Code chapter 523D are not subject to the IURLTA; and (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on Plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Albaugh v. The Reserve" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered questions certified to it by holding that a plasma collection center is a "public facility" under Tex. Hum. Res. Code (THRC) 121.002(5) and that a plasma collection center may reject a person with a disability without committing impermissible discrimination under THRC 121.003(a) when two conditions are met. Appellants were not allowed to donate plasma to CSL Plasma, Inc., a plasma collection center, and filed suit, alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability. The district court granted summary judgment for CSL, concluding that the ADA did not apply and that a plasma collection center could not be considered a public facility under the THRC. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals certified questions to the Supreme Court as to whether the THRC governs plasma collection centers. The Supreme Court answered that a plasma collection center is a public facility under section 121.002(5) and that the center may reject a person with a disability without discriminating when (1) the center's rejection does not meet the THRC's definition of "discrimination" or satisfies an exception to the definition of "discrimination," and (2) the center establishes that allowing a person with a disability use of the public facility would pose a threat to the health or safety of others. View "Silguero v. CSL Plasma, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the order of the trial court denying Defendant hospital's plea to the jurisdiction on Plaintiff's complaint alleging personal injury and death proximately cause by a condition or use of tangible personal property, holding that Plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated both use and proximate cause. At issue was whether Defendant's use of an allegedly improper carrier agent during surgery constitutes negligent use of tangible personal property and, if so, whether sufficient evidence established that this use proximately caused the decedent's death. On appeal to the Supreme Court Defendant argued that because the carrier agent was properly administered during surgery, Plaintiffs complained only of negligent medical judgment, for which immunity was not waived. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant's plea to the jurisdiction, holding that regardless of the manner in which the property was administered, when, as here, the claim was premised on Defendant's use of property that was improper under the circumstances and caused harm, this was sufficient to establish negligent use under the Texas Tort Claims Act. View "University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center v. McKenzie" on Justia Law

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Medi–Cal, California’s program under the joint federal-state Medicaid program (Welf. & Inst. Code 14000), provides health care services to certain low-income individuals and families, including the aged, blind, disabled, pregnant women, and others. (42 U.S.C. 1396). Beginning in 2013-2014, there were delays in the determination of applications for Medi-Cal benefits, sometimes with severe consequences for applicants who did not obtain needed medical care. Applicants and an advocacy organization sued the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). The court ordered DHCS to make Medi-Cal eligibility determinations within 45 days unless certain exceptions applied. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by declining to abstain but California law does not impose on DHCS a duty to make all Medi-Cal eligibility determinations within 45 days. There is an obligation to determine Medi-Cal eligibility within 45 days under federal regulation 32 CFR 435.912(c)(3)(ii), but that obligation is subject to exceptions so that the underlying obligation is not sufficiently clear and plain to be enforceable in mandate. It was not clear whether DHCS was out of compliance with an overall performance benchmark of processing 90% of applications within 45 days; absent such evidence, it was error to issue writ relief applicable across-the-board. View "Rivera v. Kent" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed an administrative law judge's (ALJ) finding that Petitioner was responsible for indicated child neglect under Md. Code Ann. Fam. Law (Fam. Law) 5-701(s), holding that intent or scienter is not an element of child neglect under Fam. Law 5-701(s). Defendant forgot to drop his seventeen-month-old son off at daycare before going to work. The child was found in the car more than six hours later and pronounced dead at the scene. St. Mary's County Department of Social Services rendered a finding of indicated child neglect against Defendant. An ALJ concluded that the Department had established by a preponderance of the evidence that the finding of indicated child neglect was supported by credible evidence and consistent with the law. The circuit court affirmed. At issue on appeal was whether "neglect" under Fam. Law 5-701(s) requires proof of an element of scienter. The Court of Special Appeals held that the statute does not require scienter. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the plain language of the statute excludes intent as an element of child neglect. View "Junek v. St. Mary's County Department of Social Services" on Justia Law

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In this intrafamily dispute regarding farmland the Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the district court denying substitute petitioners' petition for relief from elder abuse specifically seeking relief for the loss associated with certain real estate transactions, holding that the substitute petitioners failed to prove that their father was a vulnerable elder at the time of the challenged transactions. The substitute petitioners for their father filed this petition pursuant to Iowa Code 235F alleging that their brother and his son committed elder abuse against their father by unduly influencing the father to enter into below-mark-rate lease agreements to farm the father's land, to gift some of the land to the brother and his son, and to write a new will to reflect the gifted land. The district court concluded that the substitute petitioners failed to establish that their father was a "vulnerable elder" subject to "financial exploitation" within the meaning of chapter 235F. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the substitute petitioners filed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that their father was vulnerable elder at the time of the challenged transactions. View "Struve v. Struve" on Justia Law