Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

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Petitioners Governor Jay Inslee, the State of Washington, the Washington Department of Corrections, and Cheryl Strange, secretary of the Department of Corrections, sought the Washington Supreme Court's accelerated direct discretionary review of an order of the Franklin County Superior Court denying petitioners’ motion to change venue to Thurston County Superior Court in an action brought by respondent Jeffrey Johnson challenging proclamations the governor issued requiring certain state employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18, 2021. The merits of the underlying suit were not before the Court. In an order issued on October 11, 2021, the Court determined that mandatory venue for this action was in Thurston County Superior Court under RCW 4.12.020(2), and therefore granted petitioners’ motion for accelerated discretionary review, reversed the order of the Franklin County Superior Court, and remanded to that court with directions to grant petitioners’ motion to change venue without delay. In this opinion, the Court explained the reasoning underlying its order. View "Johnson v. Inslee" on Justia Law

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In April 2020, the district court entered a preliminary injunction and provisionally certified nationwide subclasses of ICE detainees with risk factors or disabilities placing them at heightened risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. The court found that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on claims of deliberate indifference to the medical needs of detainees, punitive conditions of confinement, and violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The preliminary injunction imposed a broad range of obligations on the federal government.The Ninth Circuit reversed, stating that neither the facts nor the law supported a judicial intervention of this magnitude. The plaintiffs did not make a clear showing that ICE acted with deliberate indifference to medical needs or in reckless disregard of health risks. If a particular condition or restriction of pretrial detention is reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective, it does not, alone, amount to punishment; there was a legitimate governmental objective here, ICE was holding detainees because they were suspected of having violated the immigration laws or were otherwise removable. ICE’s national directives did not create excessive conditions of “punishment.” Rejecting the Rehabilitation Act claim, the court stated that the plaintiffs at most demonstrated that they were subjected to inadequate national policies; they did not show they were treated differently from other detainees “solely by reason” of their disabilities. View "Fraihat v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement" on Justia Law

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The estates of New Jersey nursing home residents, who died from COVID-19, alleged that the nursing homes acted negligently in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The nursing homes removed the case to federal court. The district court dismissed the cases for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.The Third Circuit affirmed rejecting three arguments for federal jurisdiction: federal-officer removal, complete preemption of state law, and the presence of a substantial federal issue. The 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), 42 U.S.C. 247d-6d, 247d6e, which protects certain individuals—such as pharmacies and drug manufacturers—from lawsuits during a public-health emergency, was invoked in March 2020 but does not apply because the nursing homes did not assist or help carry out the duties of a federal superior. The PREP Act creates an exclusive cause of action for willful misconduct but the estates allege only negligence, not willful misconduct; those claims do not fall within the scope of the exclusive federal cause of action and are not preempted. The PREP Act’s compensation fund is not an exclusive federal cause of action. The estates would properly plead their state-law negligence claims without mentioning the PREP Act, so the PREP Act is not “an essential element" of the state law claim. View "Estate of Joseph Maglioli v. Alliance HC Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellants' request for a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of a regulation promulgated by Maine's Center for Disease Control requiring all workers in licensed healthcare facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19, holding that the district court did not err.Under Maine law, a healthcare worker may claim an exemption from the vaccination requirement only if a medical practitioner certifies that vaccination "may be medically inadvisable." Appellants - several Maine healthcare workers and a healthcare provider - brought this action alleging that the vaccination requirement violated their rights under 42 U.S.C. 1985 and the Free Exercise Clause, Supremacy Clause, and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The district court denied Appellants' motion for a preliminary injunction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that Appellants were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims. View "Does v. Mills" on Justia Law

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Gray received emergency medical care at St. Mary Medical Center, owned and operated by Dignity Health. He received a bill that included an “ ‘ER LEVEL 2 W/PROCEDU’ ” charge. Gray claims Dignity’s failure to disclose, before providing emergency medical treatment, that its bill for emergency services would include such a charge—either by posting “signage in and around” the emergency department or “verbally during the patients’ registration process” —is an unfair business practice under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and unlawful under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA).The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Gray does not claim that by including an ER Charge in its billing, Dignity violated any of the extensive state and federal statutory and regulatory laws governing the disclosure of hospital billing information and the treatment of persons presenting for treatment at an emergency department. Nor does he take issue with the hospital’s “chargemaster” amount for the Level 2 ER Charge, which his medical insurance largely covered. View "Gray v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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Owsley. a nurse for Care Connection, a company providing home healthcare to Medicare patients, alleged that she observed, firsthand, documents showing that her employer had used fraudulent data from Fazzi to submit inflated claims for payment to the federal and Indiana state governments. She sued both companies under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A), (B), (C), (G), and an Indiana statute.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Owsley’s complaint provided few details that would allow the defendants to identify any specific claims—of the hundreds or likely thousands they presumably submitted—that she thinks were fraudulent, and did not meet the requirements of Civil Rule 9(b). While Owsley’s allegations describe, in detail, a fraudulent scheme: Fazzi fraudulently upcoded patient data, which Care then used to submit inflated requests for anticipated Medicare payments, that information does not amount to an allegation of “particular identified claims” submitted pursuant to the fraudulent scheme. View "Owsley v. Fazzi Associates., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court involuntarily committing Respondent to the Montana State Hospital, holding that the waiver of Respondent's presence at the initial hearing on the State's petition was invalid.The Flathead County Attorney filed a petition for involuntary commitment, and the district court convened an initial appearance. Respondent, who suffered from vascular dementia and was hard of hearing, was not present in court, and his counsel asked to waive his presence at the initial hearing. The district court agreed to waive the initial appearance. After a hearing, the court found that Respondent suffered from a mental disorder and required commitment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court did not meet the statutory standards when it accepted counsel's waiver of Respondent's presence; and (2) the error prejudiced Respondent's substantial rights and compromised the integrity of the judicial process required in commitment proceedings. View "In re F.S." on Justia Law

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The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons (AAPS), is a nonprofit organization of physicians and surgeons. The American Board of Medical Specialties, a nonprofit provider of medical certification services, is an umbrella organization for 24 member boards, each dedicated to a particular medical practice area. The Board deems physicians who meet its requirements to be “Board-certified.” To remain certified, physicians must comply with the Board’s Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program and continuing education requirements. All states permit physicians who are not Board-certified to practice medicine.According to AAPS, the Board conspired with its member boards, hospitals, and health insurers to condition the granting of staff privileges and in-network status on physicians’ continued participation in the MOC program so that physicians find themselves forced to participate in the program to practice medicine, at least if they wish to do so in hospitals or to accept certain forms of insurance. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of its suit under section 1 of the Sherman Act and claiming negligent misrepresentation on the Board’s website to “create the false impression that [the MOC program] is indicative of the medical skills of physicians.” The complaint does not plausibly allege an agreement between the Board, hospitals, and insurers. Mere legal conclusions are “not entitled to be assumed true.” View "Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. v. American Board of Medical Specialties" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Adam Hemmelgarn moved for compassionate release, based on an outbreak of COVID-19 at FCI Lompoc. The district court denied his motion, as well as his subsequent motion for reconsideration. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, concluding the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding Hemmelgarn had not established extraordinary and compelling reasons in support of a sentence reduction because of his health conditions or the risk of exposure to COVID-19. View "United States v. Hemmelgarn" on Justia Law

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Western Michigan University, a public university, requires student-athletes to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but considers individual requests for medical and religious exemptions on a discretionary basis. Sixteen student-athletes applied for religious exemptions. The University ignored or denied their requests and barred them from participating in any team activities. The student-athletes sued, alleging that University officials violated their free exercise rights.The district court preliminarily enjoined the officials from enforcing the vaccine mandate against the plaintiffs. The Sixth Circuit declined to stay the injunction and proceedings in the district court pending appeal. The court called the issue “a close call” but concluded the free exercise challenge will likely succeed on appeal. The University’s vaccine mandate does not coerce a non-athlete to get vaccinated against her faith because she, as a non-athlete, cannot play intercollegiate sports either way. The mandate does penalize a student otherwise qualified for intercollegiate sports by withholding the benefit of playing on the team should she refuse to violate her sincerely held religious beliefs. The court applied strict scrutiny and reasoned that the University did not establish a compelling interest in denying an exception to the plaintiffs or that its conduct was narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. View "Dahl v. Board of Trustees of Western Michigan University" on Justia Law