Articles Posted in California Court of Appeal

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John Jarman (later represented by his daughter, Janice Jarman, as successor in interest), sued HCR ManorCare, Inc., and Manor Care of Hemet, CA, LLC, (collectively, "Manor Care"), which owned and operated a nursing home facility in Hemet. Jarman was a patient at the facility for three months in 2008, and alleged claims for violations of patient’s rights pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 1430, elder abuse, and negligence, all arising out of the care he received at the nursing home. The jury returned a special verdict finding Manor Care committed 382 violations of Jarman’s rights, and that its conduct was negligent. The jury awarded Jarman statutory and damages caused by the negligence. The jury also made a finding that Manor Care had acted with malice, oppression or fraud. However, the trial court granted Manor Care’s oral motion to strike the punitive damage claim, agreeing with Manor Care that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding of malice, oppression or fraud. The trial court ultimately entered judgment against Manor Care in the amount of $195,500, and awarded Jarman $368,755 in attorney fees. Jarman appealed the portion of the judgment denying him punitive damages, arguing the trial court erred by striking the jury’s finding Manor Care acted with malice, oppression or fraud. The Court of Appeal agreed the court erred in that respect and reversed the punitive damages judgment by the trial court. For its part, Manor Care argued on appeal that: (1) the trial court erred by allowing the jury to award Jarman a separate measure of statutory damages under section 1430 for each of the 382 violations of his rights found by the jury; (2) the statutory damage award must be reversed in its entirety against HCR, because Jarman did not allege HCR engaged in conduct that violated his rights and because HCR was not a “licensee” subject to liability under section 1430; (3) the statutory damage award should have been reversed against both HCR and Hemet because the special verdict on the statutory claim made inconsistent references to each of them, and was thus insufficient to support a judgment against either; (4) the negligence verdict could not stand against HCR because the special verdict on negligence omitted any finding of causation against HCR specifically, and that it cannot stand against either HCR or Hemet because the damages awarded were inherently speculative; and (5) any reversal of the judgment which favors it will also necessitate a reversal and remand of the attorney fees award. Finding no reversible error with respect to Manor Care's arguments, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Jarman v. HCR ManorCare" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs each bought skin puncture lancets and glucose test strips from retail pharmacy stores owned and/or operated by defendants. When plaintiffs purchased these items, the retail pharmacies charged them "sales tax" and subsequently remitted the money they collected as sales tax to the Board of Equalization. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the lancets and test strips have been exempt from sales tax since March 10, 2000, the date on which the Board made effective California Code of Regulations, title 18, section 1591.1, subdivision (b)(5). The Supreme Court held in Loeffler v. Target Corp., that the customer was not the taxpayer and thus could not herself seek a refund from the Board. At issue was whether the customer may obtain a court order compelling the retail pharmacy to file an administrative refund claim with the Board. The state's Supreme Court held in Javor v. Board of Equalization that the Legislature's authority in this regard was not exclusive and that courts retain a residual power to fill remedial gaps by fashioning tax refund remedies in "unique circumstances." The court concluded that a court may create a new tax refund remedy—and, accordingly, that the requisite "unique circumstances" exist— only if (1) the person seeking the new tax refund remedy has no statutory tax refund remedy available to it, (2) the tax refund remedy sought is not inconsistent with existing tax refund remedies, and (3) the Board has already determined that the person seeking the new tax refund remedy is entitled to a refund, such that the refusal to create that remedy will unjustly enrich either the taxpayer/retailer or the Board. In this case, because the Revenue and Taxation Code does not provide for this remedy and because plaintiffs have not established any of the three prerequisites to the exercise of the judicial residual power to fashion new remedies, the court concluded that the trial court correctly sustained demurrers to all of the claims in the complaint without leave to amend. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McClain v. Sav-On Drugs" on Justia Law

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Diana Lemke challenged the trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of respondents Sutter Roseville Medical Center, Peter V. Hull, M.D., Debbie Madding, and Julie Fralick (collectively Sutter Roseville). Lemke was terminated from her employment as a registered nurse at Sutter Roseville after improper administration of narcotics to a patient and failure to properly monitor and document the patient’s condition. In response, Lemke filed an action against Sutter Roseville in which she claimed retaliation for whistleblowing, disability discrimination, failure to accommodate a disability, failure to engage in an interactive process, retaliation, harassment, failure to prevent retaliation, and defamation. On appeal, Lemke addressed only her causes of action for retaliation, failure to prevent retaliation, and defamation, contending: (1) there was a triable issue of material fact as to whether Sutter Roseville’s stated reasons for terminating her employment were pretextual; (2) the same reasons establishing her claim for retaliation also compel reversal of the trial court’s dismissal of her claim for failure to prevent retaliation; (3) she presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate triable issues of material fact for her claim of defamation; and (4) the trial court erred in its evidentiary rulings related to the motion for summary judgment. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded Lemke did not meet her burden to show Sutter Roseville’s stated reasons were merely a pretext for retaliating against her. Furthermore, the Court determined the trial court properly dismissed her claim of failure to prevent retaliation. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Lemke v. Sutter Roseville Medical Center" on Justia Law

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McNair obtained a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in 2000 and began driving. McNair has a history of diabetes and cognitive deficits. While under the care of Department of Public Health (DPH) physicians, McNair signed forms, stating that his medical records would not be released without his written authorization, absent an articulated exception. One exception applied if the DPH was “permitted or required by law” to release the information. In 2002, Dr. Pope advised “serious caution" in recommending that the CDL be renewed. In 2004. Dr. Kim refused to certify McNair for a CDL. None of the other physicians would agree to certify him. Dr. Kim wrote a letter to support McNair's application for SSI disability benefits, stating her opinion,that he was not able to hold down any type of full-time employment. Later, Alameda County Transit hired McNair as a bus operator. After learning of his job and that McNair had applied for a certificate to drive school busses, Kim contacted the DMV. McNair’s CDL was temporarily revoked. He lost his job. McNair filed suit alleging breach of his medical privacy rights. The court of appeal affirmed summary adjudication, finding his intentional tort and breach of contract claims barred by the litigation privilege, Civil Code 47(b); both claims were based solely on the propriety of Kim‟s letter to the DMV. View "McNair v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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This case presented two issues of first impression for the Court of Appeals’ review. The issues touched on the interaction between (a) hospital peer review proceedings against doctors governed by sections 805 to 809.7 of the Business and Professions Code, and (b) the hospital whistleblower statute, Health and Safety Code section 1278.5. The first question was left open by the California Supreme Court “Fahlen v. Sutter Central Valley Hospital,” (58 Cal.4th 655 (2014)). Fahlen held that a physician could prosecute a section 1278.5 action without first having to prevail in an administrative mandate proceeding attacking a peer review determination, but the court did not go so far as to excuse the physician from completing the internal peer review process before filing a section 1278.5 action. The second question was whether a physician bringing a section 1278.5 action could name as defendants individual physicians involved in the peer review process who allegedly instigated the process in retaliation for the physician’s whistleblowing. Based on the analysis of “Fahlen” and the text and legislative history of section 1278.5, the Court of Appeals held that a physician need not complete the internal peer review process prior to filing a section 1278.5 action. With respect to the second issue, the Court held that a physician may not name individual physicians in his/her 1278.5 complaint. A third issue involved the tripartite interaction of the anti-SLAPP stattue, the peer review process, and a physician’s religious discrimination claims against a hospital under FEHA. Specifically, the issue raised here was whether the fact the physician reiterated complaints of religious discrimination by the hospital in the context of protesting the initiation of peer review proceedings against him so intertwined his discrimination claims with the peer review proceedings as to subject his discrimination claims to an anti-SLAPP motion. The Court of Appeals found that based on the facts of this case, the physician first voiced his complaints of religious discrimination prior to the initiation of the peer review proceedings. His discrimination claims were therefore not based on activity protected under the anti-SLAPP statute. View "Armin v. Riverside Community Hospital" on Justia Law

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Two weeks after Mr. Magney was hospitalized and while he was receiving palliative care, the course recommended by his treating physician (and by his prior treating physician and consulting cardiologist) and desired by both Magney and his wife, Humboldt County Adult Protective Services filed a petition under the Health Care Decisions Law (Prob. Code, 4600), ex parte and without notice, to effectively revoke Magney‘s written advance care directive (the validity of which has never been questioned) by removing his wife as his designated agent for health care decisions and to compel medical treatment. Two weeks later, Humboldt obtained a temporary treatment order. Within days, Humboldt withdrew its petition and the trial court vacated the order, but denied Magney’s request for statutory attorney fees. The court of appeal reversed, noting “an appallingly inadequate evidentiary showing,” and “misleading the trial court both as to pertinent provisions of the Health Care Decisions Law and as to Mr. Magney‘s medical status.” Humboldt had no reasonable cause to proceed under the Health Care Decisions Law. View "Humboldt County Adult Protective Services v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. (UMMP) appealed a trial court judgment denying its petition for writ of mandate, which challenged the City of San Diego's enactment of an ordinance adopting regulations for the establishment and location of medical marijuana consumer cooperatives in the City. UMMP argued that the City did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when enacting the ordinance. After review, the Court of Appeals concluded that the ordinance did not constitute a "project" within the meaning of CEQA, and accordingly the City was not required to conduct an environmental analysis prior to enacting the ordinance. View "Union of Med. Marijuana Patients v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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A person who pays for a trip to the emergency room out-of-pocket can be charged significantly more for care than a person who has insurance. This case centered on whether a person could maintain an action challenging this variable pricing practice under the Unfair Competition Law, the Consumer Legal Remedies Act or and action for declaratory relief. The Court of Appeals concluded after review of this case that most of the claims asserted by plaintiff Gene Moran lacked merit. However, he sufficiently alleged facts supporting a conclusion that he had standing to claim the amount of the charges defendants' hospital bills self-pay patients was unconscionable. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court's dismissal of Moran's case, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Moran v. Prime Healthcare" on Justia Law

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After Gloria Glover Woods suffered a psychotic episode, the hospice provider directed that she be transferred from St. John to an acute care hospital for evaluation and treatment. When her treatment was concluded, St. John refused to readmit her to the first available bed under 42 C.F.R. 483.12. Section 483.12 governs the requirements for a skilled nursing facility’s involuntary transfer or discharge of a resident. After an administrative hearing, DHCS ordered St. John to readmit Ms. Woods, and the superior court denied St. John’s petition for writ of administrative mandate seeking to vacate the order. The court concluded that, in light of developments during the pendency of the appeal, the order requiring Ms. Woods’ readmission is now moot. However, because there is a separate civil lawsuit between the parties in which the issue is likely to arise again, the court exercised its discretion and concluded that section 483.12 does not exempt a skilled nursing facility from the readmission requirement when the transfer to an acute care hospital from which the resident is returning was ordered by the resident’s hospice care provider rather than the facility itself. Therefore, to the extent St. John contends that its refusal to readmit Ms. Woods did not constitute an involuntary transfer because she was returning from an acute hospitalization ordered by her hospice care provider, and that therefore St. John was not bound by the involuntary transfer requirements of section 483.12, St. John is mistaken. The court also rejected St. John’s contention that readmitting Ms. Woods and thereafter discharging her after complying with section 483.12’s requirements would have subjected St. John to liability under Health and Safety Code section 1432. View "St. John of God Retirement v. Dep't of Health Care Serv." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action against United Healthcare, alleging claims of unfair competition, unjust enrichment, and financial elder abuse. Plaintiff had enrolled in a private health plan offering benefits to persons 65 and over as well as disabled persons under the federally funded Medicare Advantage program, 42 U.S.C. 1395w-21 et seq. After he went to an urgent care center outside of the plan's network, he was forced to pay a $50 copayment instead of the $30 copayment for in-network centers. Plaintiff alleged that the plan’s marketing materials misled him (and other enrollees) as to the availability of in-network urgent care centers (and their smaller copayments) and that the absence of any in-network urgent care centers in California rendered the plan’s network inadequate. The court concluded that plaintiff’s misrepresentation and adequacy-of-network based claims was expressly preempted by the preemption clause applicable to Medicare Advantage plans, 42 U.S.C. 1395w-26(b)(3). The court also concluded that plaintiff’s claims, to the extent they challenge a denial of benefits, are subject to dismissal because plaintiff did not first exhaust his administrative remedies under the Medicare Act, 42 U.S.C. 405(g), (h) and 1395ii. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the complaint. View "Roberts v. United Healthcare" on Justia Law