Justia Health Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Let Them Choose v. San Diego Unified School Dist.
The California Legislature has required school children to be vaccinated for 10 diseases; COVID-19 was not yet among them. The issue here was whether a school district could require students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for both: (1) attending in-person class; and (2) participating in extracurricular activities. The superior court determined there was a “statewide standard for school vaccination,” leaving “no room for each of the over 1,000 individual school districts to impose a patchwork of additional vaccine mandates.” On independent review, the Court of Appeal reached the same conclusion and affirmed the judgment. View "Let Them Choose v. San Diego Unified School Dist." on Justia Law
Wisner v. Dignity Health
Pro se plaintiff Gary Wisner, M.D. filed a complaint alleging that defendants Dignity Health and the Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center (collectively, SJMC) falsely reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) that Wisner surrendered his clinical privileges while under criminal investigation for insurance fraud. The trial court granted a special motion to strike the complaint after concluding that Wisner’s claims arose from a protected activity and that Wisner failed to establish a probability of prevailing on the merits. Wisner contested both aspects of the trial court’s order, and he also argued the court erred by denying his motion to conduct limited discovery prior to the hearing on the anti-SLAPP motion. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Wisner v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law
Amiodarone was developed in the 1960s for the treatment of angina and was released in other countries. Amiodarone is associated with side effects, including pulmonary fibrosis, blindness, thyroid cancer, and death. In the 1970s, U.S. physicians began obtaining amiodarone from other countries for use in patients with life-threatening ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia who did not respond to other drugs. In 1985, the FDA approved Wyeth’s formulation of amiodarone, Cordarone, as a drug of last resort for patients suffering from recurring life-threatening ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. The FDA’s “special needs” approval issued without randomized clinical trials. In 1989, the FDA described Wyeth’s promotional activities as promoting an unapproved use of the drug. In 1992, the FDA objected to promotional labeling pieces for Cordarone. Other manufacturers developed generic amiodarone, which has been available since 1998.Consolidated lawsuits alleged that plaintiffs suffered unnecessary, serious side effects when they took amiodarone, as prescribed by their doctors, for off-label use to treat atrial fibrillation, a more common, less serious, condition than ventricular fibrillation. The FDA never approved amiodarone for the treatment of atrial fibrillation, even on a special-needs basis. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuits. The claims are preempted as attempts to privately enforce the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 301, regulations governing medication guides and labeling and have no independent basis in state law. The court also rejected fraud claims under California’s unfair competition law and Consumers Legal Remedy Act. View "Amiodarone Cases" on Justia Law
Leger v. R.A.C. Rolling Hills
R.A.C. Rolling Hills LP, dba ActivCare at Rolling Hills Ranch, and ActivCare Living, Inc. (together, ActivCare), appealed an order denying their petition to compel arbitration in the elder abuse lawsuit filed by Mary Leger. ActivCare contended the trial court erred in concluding that it had waived its right to arbitration because it sought to compel arbitration less than 30 days after filing its answer. Under the unique facts of this case, the Court of Appeal concluded substantial evidence supported the trial court’s waiver finding and affirmed the order. View "Leger v. R.A.C. Rolling Hills" on Justia Law
Amy’s Kitchen, Inc. v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co.
Amy’s employs 2,500 people to manufacture vegetarian meals. It purchased comprehensive property insurance from Fireman’s for a period ending in July 2020. The policy included coverage extensions for communicable diseases and for loss avoidance and mitigation: Fireman’s “will pay for direct physical loss or damage to Property" caused by or resulting from a "communicable disease event at a location.” The policy defines “communicable disease event” as one in which “a public health authority has ordered that a location be evacuated, decontaminated, or disinfected due to the outbreak of a communicable disease.” Amy’s incurred costs “to mitigate, contain, clean, disinfect, monitor, and test for the effects of” the coronavirus at insured locations, and to avoid or mitigate potential coronavirus-related losses, including temperature-screening equipment to test for COVID, protective shields to prevent transmission on assembly lines, masks and goggles, cleaning supplies, and “hero pay.” People with confirmed COVID-19 cases were on Amy’s premises. The complaint cited “various require[d safety measures] for all essential businesses.”Fireman’s denied Amy’s claim. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Under communicable disease extension, the need to clean or disinfect infected or potentially infected covered property constitutes “direct physical loss or damage” of the property; Amy’s has not pled a “communicable disease event” but should be given leave to amend to do so. View "Amy's Kitchen, Inc. v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Environmental Health Advocates, Inc. v. Sream, Inc.
Sream manufactures water pipes (bongs). According to Sream, its packaging and labels have long included the statement that such products “should be sold, marketed or used for legal, non-prohibited use only.” Since July 2020, Sream has also placed the following label on its products as a “purely defensive” measure: “WARNING: This product can expose you to chemicals including arsenic, which is known ... to cause cancer."EHA filed a private enforcement action, alleging Sream had failed to provide a warning that its products exposed consumers to marijuana smoke in violation of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Health & Safety Code, 25249.5, “Proposition 65”). Section 25249.6 provides: “No person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual.” “Marijuana smoke” was added to the list of carcinogens in 2009.The trial court granted Sream judgment on the pleadings, finding EHA had not alleged that Sream’s products require marijuana to function or can only be used with marijuana. The court of appeal affirmed. EHA does not allege direct contact, but instead that individuals “may be exposed to marijuana smoke” if they use Sream’s water pipes with marijuana. Requiring a warning for possible indirect contact, depending on how a consumer chooses to use the product, would introduce confusion into that decision-making process. View "Environmental Health Advocates, Inc. v. Sream, Inc." on Justia Law
Kernan v. Regents of the University of California
On November 4, 2016, Kernan had an External Cephalic Version (ECV) procedure to rotate her healthy 39-week fetus from a breech position. The hospital recorded the ECV as successful. Post-procedure fetal monitoring was “reassuring.” The next day, Kernan could not detect fetal movement and returned to the hospital. After an ultrasound, doctors informed Kernan that she had suffered an intrauterine fetal demise and that they could not determine the cause of death. They noted that nothing in the literature linked ECV with fetal demise. Kernan delivered a stillborn baby on November 7. The delivery doctor, Vargas, told Kernan that he could not see any indicators as to why Kernan’s baby died. Kernan eventually ordered an autopsy. After months of delay due to Dr. Vargas not responding to Kernan’s requests to review the autopsy report with her, Kernan met with Dr. Kerns on July 10, 2017, and learned that doctors had discussed her case during a morbidity and mortality conference. Kernan claims she first became subjectively suspicious of medical negligence during that meeting. On November 6, 2017, Kernan served notice of her intention to file suit. Within 90 days, she filed her negligence complaint.The court rejected the suit as time-barred under Code of Civil Procedure 340.5’s one-year limitations period. The court of appeal reversed. The hospital’s records demonstrate that reasonable minds could differ as to whether Kernan should have suspected negligent performance of the ECV on November 5, 2016. View "Kernan v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law
California v. Cheatham
Over ten years ago, Prince Kurtiss Cheatham fled criminal custody after he heard nonexistent voices that led him to believe his life was in danger. After being returned to custody, he again attempted to escape after again hearing nonexistent voices because of untreated schizoaffective disorder. He was charged based on these events and, after being found not guilty by reason of insanity, was committed to a state hospital. Since that time, Cheatham took medications that largely subdued his mental health symptoms but have not resolved his symptoms entirely. Shortly before Cheatham’s anticipated release from hospital custody, the local district attorney sought to extend his commitment under Penal Code section 1026.5. After two psychologists testified at trial that Cheatham met the statute's criteria, a jury found the district attorney had proved the facts necessary to extend Cheatham’s commitment. On appeal, Cheatham argued: (1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the jury’s findings; and (2) the district attorney should be barred from trying the matter again under double jeopardy principles. Although he acknowledged these principles generally applied only in criminal matters, he contended they also applied in proceedings to extend a section 1026.5 commitment per 1026.5(b)(7). After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with Cheatham on both points: because of the lack of evidence supporting the required showing, the Court found the evidence insufficient to support a commitment extension under section 1026.5. Further, the Court found that, on remand, the district attorney could not again attempt to extend Cheatham’s commitment. The trial court’s order extending Cheatham’s commitment was reversed and the trial court directed to dismiss the petition to extend the commitment. View "California v. Cheatham" on Justia Law
People v. Calvary Chapel San Jose
In 2020, California and Santa Clara County issued public health orders intended to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, including orders restricting indoor gatherings and requiring face coverings, social distancing, and submission of a social distancing protocol by businesses, including churches. Calvary Chapel failed to comply with those orders. On November 2, 2020, the trial court issued a temporary restraining order, followed by a November 24 modified TRO, and a preliminary injunction that enjoined Calvary from holding indoor gatherings that did not comply with the restrictions on indoor gatherings and requirements that participants wear face coverings and social distance. Calvary was also enjoined from operating without submitting a social distancing protocol. Calvary violated the orders, failing to comply with any of the public health orders.The government sought an order of contempt, which the trial court issued on December 17, 2020, ordering Calvary and its pastors to pay monetary sanctions (Code of Civil Procedure sections 177.51 and 1218(a)). The court of appeal annulled the contempt orders and reversed the sanctions. The temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions are facially unconstitutional under the recent guidance of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion in the context of public health orders that impact religious practice. View "People v. Calvary Chapel San Jose" on Justia Law
Saini v. Sutter Health
The plaintiff alleged that after being treated at the defendant’s emergency room, he was billed an evaluation and management services (EMS) fee in addition to the charges for individual items of service and treatment. His total charges of $4,593 (before discounts) included the undisclosed EMS Fee of $2,811. He argued that the EMS Fee was charged to patients simply for being seen in the emergency room and is not visibly posted on signage in or around emergency rooms or at its registration windows/desks.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of his third amended complaint, alleging violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) (Civ. Code 1750). The court noted that another division of the court of appeals recently held that identical allegations do not state a cause of action under the CLRA. The plaintiff acknowledged the hospital’s compliance with California’s “Payers’ Bill of Rights,” Health and Safety Code 1339.50, by listing the EMS Fee in its chargemaster, which is published on defendant’s website. There is no duty to make an additional disclosure of the EMS Fee in light of the public policy reflected in federal and state statutes that emergency room care be provided to patients without delay or questioning about their ability to pay. View "Saini v. Sutter Health" on Justia Law