Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

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The case involves Ryan Owen Frayo, a former employee of A&A Organic Farms Corporation (A&A), who was terminated for refusing to take a COVID-19 test. Frayo sued A&A and its owners, Andrew D. Martin and Aimee M. Raphael-Martin, alleging they violated the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA). Frayo claimed that his termination was a result of his refusal to provide a COVID-19 test result, which he argued was equivalent to refusing to sign an authorization for the release of his medical information under the CMIA. He also claimed that A&A used his description of his symptoms, which he considered as medical information, to terminate his employment.The trial court sustained A&A’s demurrer to Frayo’s first amended complaint, finding that Frayo failed to state a claim under the CMIA. The court concluded that Frayo failed to state a claim under section 56.20(b) of the CMIA because the statute prohibits employer discrimination based on an employee’s refusal to sign an authorization to release his medical information, not refusal to take a COVID-19 test. The court also sustained the demurrer to Frayo’s second cause of action under section 56.20(c) because Frayo failed to allege A&A had possession of his medical information, as defined by the statute.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Sixth Appellate District affirmed the trial court's decision. The appellate court agreed with the trial court that Frayo did not state a cognizable CMIA claim under either section 56.20(b) or (c). The court found that Frayo's refusal to take and provide the results of a COVID-19 test was not equivalent to an "employee’s refusal to sign an authorization" under the CMIA. Furthermore, the court concluded that Frayo failed to allege that A&A was in possession of his medical information as defined under the CMIA. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of dismissal. View "Frayo v. Martin" on Justia Law

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A group of individuals and businesses challenged the Affordable Care Act's requirement for private insurers to cover certain types of preventive care, including contraception, HPV vaccines, and drugs preventing HIV transmission. The plaintiffs argued that the mandates were unlawful because the agencies issuing them violated Article II of the Constitution, as their members were principal officers of the United States who had not been validly appointed under the Appointments Clause. The district court mostly agreed, vacating all agency actions taken to enforce the mandates and issuing both party-specific and universal injunctive relief.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed that the United States Preventive Services Task Force, one of the challenged administrative bodies, was composed of principal officers who had not been validly appointed. However, the court found that the district court erred in vacating all agency actions taken to enforce the preventive-care mandates and in universally enjoining the defendants from enforcing them. The court also held that the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services had not validly cured the Task Force’s constitutional problems.The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court did not rule on the plaintiffs' challenges against the other two administrative bodies involved in the case, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Health Resources and Services Administration, reserving judgment on whether the Secretary had effectively ratified their recommendations and guidelines. View "Braidwood Mgmt v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Iowaska Church of Healing (the "Church"), an organization whose religious practices involve the consumption of Ayahuasca, a tea containing the hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is regulated under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The Church had applied for tax-exempt status under 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) but was denied by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the grounds that the Church's religious use of Ayahuasca was illegal. The Church challenged this decision in the District Court, arguing that the IRS's determination was based on an incorrect assumption of illegality and that the denial of tax-exempt status violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).The District Court denied the Church's motion and granted the Government's motion for summary judgment. The court held that the Church lacked standing to assert its RFRA claim and that the lack of standing also undermined its tax-exemption claim. The court found that the Church's religious use of Ayahuasca was illegal without a CSA exemption, and the IRS had no authority to assess whether the Church's proposed Ayahuasca use warranted a religious exemption from the CSA.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the District Court's judgment. The Court of Appeals held that the Church lacked standing to assert its RFRA claim because the economic injury it claimed was neither an injury-in-fact nor redressable. Without a cognizable RFRA claim, the Church's tax-exemption claim also failed. The Court of Appeals found that the Church could not proffer evidence of a CSA exemption to show it passed the organizational and operational tests for tax-exempt status. View "Iowaska Church of Healing v. Werfel" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over the interpretation of a statute that regulates healthcare providers participating in the federal Medicaid program. The State of Texas, acting through the Attorney General, sought to enforce a statute that imposes penalties on a provider who submits a claim for payment and knowingly fails to indicate the type of professional license and the identification number of the person who actually provided the service. The defendant, a dentist, argued that the statute only applies if a claim fails to indicate both the license type and the identification number of the actual provider.Previously, the trial court granted the State's motion for partial summary judgment and denied the defendant's motion. The court rendered a final judgment awarding the State more than $16,500,000. The defendant appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment, except for the amount of attorney’s fees and expenses.The Supreme Court of Texas reversed the lower courts' decisions. The court agreed with the defendant's interpretation of the statute. The court held that the statute applies only if a claim fails to indicate both the license type and the identification number of the actual provider. The court found that the 1,842 claims at issue did indicate the actual providers’ license type, so they did not constitute an unlawful act under the statute. The court rendered judgment in the dentist’s favor. View "MALOUF v. THE STATE OF TEXAS EX RELS. ELLIS AND CASTILLO" on Justia Law

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The case involves Image API, LLC, a company that provided services to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) from 2009 to 2015. Image's job was to manage a processing center for incoming mail related to Medicaid and other benefits programs. The agreement between the parties stated that HHSC would compensate Image using its “retrospective cost settlement model”. In 2016, HHSC notified Image that an independent external firm would conduct an audit of Image’s performance and billing for the years 2010 and 2011. The audit concluded that HHSC had overpaid Image approximately $440,000 in costs relating to bonuses, holiday pay, overtime, and other unauthorized labor expenses. HHSC then sought to recoup the overpayments by deducting from payments on Image’s invoices.The trial court granted HHSC’s motion for summary judgment and signed a final judgment for the commissioner. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment and dismissed Image’s entire suit for want of jurisdiction. Image sought review.The Supreme Court of Texas held that Image is a Medicaid contractor under Section 32.0705(a), and that the deadline in Section 32.0705(d) for auditing HHSC’s Medicaid contractors is mandatory. However, the court ruled that HHSC’s failure to meet the deadline does not preclude it from using the result of the audit or pursuing recoupment of overcharges found in the audit. The court affirmed the part of the court of appeals’ judgment dismissing Image’s claims arising from the 2016 audit for lack of jurisdiction, reversed the part of the judgment dismissing the remainder of Image’s suit, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "IMAGE API, LLC v. YOUNG" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over the interpretation of the "learned intermediary doctrine" in a product liability case involving a medical device. The plaintiff, Michelle Himes, sued the defendant, Somatics, LLC, alleging that the company failed to provide adequate warning about the risks associated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a treatment she underwent for severe depression. Himes claimed that she was only warned about the possibility of short-term memory loss, and not about the potential for permanent brain damage, severe permanent retrograde and anterograde amnesia, and acute and/or chronic organic brain syndrome, which she alleges she suffered as a result of the treatment.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Somatics, finding that Himes failed to present evidence showing that a more detailed warning would have changed her physician's decision to administer ECT. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court's finding but noted a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the physician would have communicated a stronger warning to Himes.The Supreme Court of California was asked to clarify the causation standard under the learned intermediary doctrine. The court held that a plaintiff is not required to show that a stronger warning would have altered the physician’s decision to prescribe the product to establish causation. Instead, a plaintiff may establish causation by showing that the physician would have communicated the stronger warning to the patient and an objectively prudent person in the patient’s position would have thereafter declined the treatment. The court emphasized that the causation analysis must take into consideration whether the physician would still recommend the prescription drug or medical device for the patient, even in the face of a more adequate warning. View "Himes v. Somatics, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves Roland Black, who was convicted of attempting to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, specifically furanyl fentanyl. Law enforcement intercepted a package addressed to Black, believing it contained narcotics. After obtaining a warrant, they found the substance, replaced it with sham narcotics, and delivered the package to Black's residence. Black was arrested after the package was opened and he was found with luminescent powder from the sham narcotics on his hands.Prior to his trial, Black had unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the indictment and suppress all evidence derived from the seizure of the package. He argued that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to seize the package and requested an evidentiary hearing to resolve related factual disputes. The district court denied these motions, ruling that the totality of the circumstances supported the officers' reasonable suspicion determination.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Black appealed his conviction, raising four arguments. He contended that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to seize the package, the jury instruction about his requisite mens rea was erroneous, the jury’s verdict was not supported by sufficient evidence, and the court erred in denying his motion to dismiss based on the court’s treatment of furanyl fentanyl as an analogue of fentanyl.The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision. It found that the officers had reasonable suspicion to seize the package, the jury instruction accurately stated the law, the jury’s verdict was supported by more than sufficient evidence, and Black's motion to dismiss argument was foreclosed by precedent. View "USA v. Black" on Justia Law

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Insulet Corp. and EOFlow are medical device manufacturers that produce insulin pump patches. Insulet began developing its OmniPod product in the early 2000s, and EOFlow started developing its EOPatch product after its founding in 2011. Around the same time, four former Insulet employees joined EOFlow. In 2023, reports surfaced that Medtronic had started a process to acquire EOFlow. Soon after, Insulet sued EOFlow for violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to enjoin all technical communications between EOFlow and Medtronic in view of its trade secrets claims.The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts temporarily restrained EOFlow from disclosing products or manufacturing technical information related to the EOPatch or OmniPod products. The court then granted Insulet’s request for a preliminary injunction, finding strong evidence that Insulet is likely to succeed on the merits of its trade secrets claim, strong evidence of misappropriation, and that irreparable harm to Insulet crystallized when EOFlow announced an intended acquisition by Medtronic. The injunction enjoined EOFlow from manufacturing, marketing, or selling any product that was designed, developed, or manufactured, in whole or in part, using or relying on alleged trade secrets of Insulet.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s order. The court found that the district court had failed to address the statute of limitations, lacked a tailored analysis as to what specific information actually constituted a trade secret, and found it hard to tell what subset of that information was likely to have been misappropriated by EOFlow. The court also found that the district court had failed to meaningfully engage with the public interest prong. The court concluded that Insulet had not shown a likelihood of success on the merits and other factors for a preliminary injunction. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. View "INSULET CORP. v. EOFLOW, CO. LTD. " on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over the eligibility of a married individual, Costa Tingos, for Medicaid long-term care benefits. Costa and his wife, Mary, had been married for over 50 years, but had kept their finances largely separate due to Costa's history of gambling and financial mismanagement. When Costa moved into a nursing home, he applied for Medicaid benefits. However, Mary refused to provide information about her income and assets, which was necessary to determine Costa's eligibility. Costa argued that Mary's refusal to cooperate should not affect his eligibility.The case was initially heard by the Massachusetts Medicaid program, MassHealth, which denied Costa's application. Costa appealed to the MassHealth board of hearings, which also denied his appeal. Costa then sought judicial review in the Superior Court, which vacated the board's decision and remanded the case back to the board. After two more rounds of hearings and appeals, the Superior Court affirmed the board's decision to deny Costa's application.The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirmed the decision of the Superior Court. The court held that the board's interpretation of the phrase "refuses to cooperate" in the relevant regulation was reasonable. The court found that Mary's refusal to disclose her financial information did not constitute a refusal to cooperate within the meaning of the regulation, given the couple's long history of cooperation in other aspects of their marriage. The court also rejected Costa's argument that the board's decision was arbitrary and capricious. View "Freiner v. Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Tokvan Ly, a man suffering from severe mental illness, who was incarcerated in the Scott County Jail. The district court found Ly incompetent to face criminal proceedings and ordered him committed to the care of the appellant, Jodi Harpstead, the Commissioner of Human Services. The law requires that persons in Ly's position be prioritized for admission to state-operated treatment programs and be admitted within 48 hours. However, Ly was not admitted within this timeframe. Fifteen days after his commitment, Ly remained in jail and was not receiving the specialized treatment needed for his severe mental illness. Consequently, he filed a petition for writs of mandamus and habeas corpus, alleging that the Commissioner was failing to comply with a mandatory duty to admit him to treatment within 48 hours under the Priority Admission statute and seeking damages resulting from his delayed admission to treatment.The district court issued a peremptory writ of mandamus that determined the Commissioner’s liability solely on the facts as alleged in Ly’s petition, and set the issue of mandamus damages for a fact trial. The Commissioner appealed the district court’s order, contending that she could immediately appeal the order before entry of final judgment. The court of appeals disagreed and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.The Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that the basis for appeal from an order issuing a peremptory writ of mandamus under Rule 103.03(g) has been extinguished, and that appeal must instead proceed from a final judgment under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.03(a). The court further concluded that an order issuing a peremptory writ is not appealable under Rule 103.03(a) as a form of irregular judgment, and that the district court order currently on appeal does not satisfy the finality requirement of that rule. However, the court invoked its inherent authority and its authority under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 102 to suspend the final judgment requirement of Rule 103.03(a), reverse the decision of the court of appeals, exercise jurisdiction over the Commissioner’s underlying appeal, and remand to the court of appeals to consider the merits of the appeal. View "Ly v. Harpstead" on Justia Law