Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Defendants Silverado Senior Living Management, Inc., and Subtenant 350 W. Bay Street, LLC dba Silverado Senior Living – Newport Mesa appealed a trial court's denial of its petition to compel arbitration of the complaint filed by plaintiffs Diane Holley, both individually and as successor in interest to Elizabeth S. Holley, and James Holley. Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, who operated a senior living facility, for elder abuse and neglect, negligence, and wrongful death, based on defendants’ alleged substandard treatment of Elizabeth. More than eight months after the complaint was filed, defendants moved to arbitrate based on an arbitration agreement Diane had signed upon Elizabeth’s admission. At the time, Diane and James were temporary conservators of Elizabeth’s person. The court denied the motion, finding that at the time Diane signed the document, there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate she had the authority to bind Elizabeth to the arbitration agreement. Defendants argued the court erred in this ruling as a matter of law, and that pursuant to the Probate Code, the agreement to arbitrate was a “health care decision” to which a conservator had the authority to bind a conservatee. Defendants relied on a case from the Third District Court of Appeal, Hutcheson v. Eskaton FountainWood Lodge, 17 Cal.App.5th 937 (2017). After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that Hutcheson and other cases on which defendants relied are distinguishable on the facts and relevant legal principles. "When the Holleys signed the arbitration agreement, they were temporary conservators of Elizabeth’s person, and therefore, they lacked the power to bind Elizabeth to an agreement giving up substantial rights without her consent or a prior adjudication of her lack of capacity. Further, as merely temporary conservators, the Holleys were constrained, as a general matter, from making long-term decisions without prior court approval." Accordingly, the trial court was correct that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable as to Elizabeth. Furthermore, because there was no substantial evidence that the Holleys intended to sign the arbitration agreement on their own behalf, it could not be enforced against their individual claims. The Courttherefore affirmed the trial court’s order denial to compel arbitration. View "Holley v. Silverado Senior Living Management" on Justia Law

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A juvenile court has the authority to order vaccinations for dependent children under its jurisdiction. Recently enacted Health and Safety Code section 120372, subdivision (d)(3)(C) provides that a state public health officer (SPHO) or a doctor designated by a SPHO "may revoke the medical exemption." The Court of Appeal held that section 120372, subdivision (d)(3)(C) does not deprive the juvenile court of that authority.After determining that this case was not moot, the court rejected father's contention that the juvenile court had no legal authority to revoke the vaccination exemptions from a past treating physician and to order that the children be vaccinated. The court held that evidence in the record supported the juvenile court's finding that the children needed vaccinations. The court also held that there is no statutory bar to preclude the juvenile court from ordering dependent children to receive medically necessary vaccinations. Finally, the court held that the juvenile court could reasonably find that the past treating physician did not know the children's current need for vaccinations and father's remaining contentions do not show grounds for reversal. View "In re S.P." on Justia Law

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Objector, a conservatee subject to conservatorship under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, contested the petition to reappoint a public guardian as his conservator. On appeal, objector contends the trial court violated Welfare and Institutions Code section 5350, subdivision (d)(2), and denied him due process by failing to commence the jury trial within 10 days of his demand for trial.The Court of Appeal was deeply troubled by the significant delay of over four months in holding a trial on objector's petition, especially given the lack of any justification by the court for most of the delay. The court emphasized the statutory obligation of trial courts to hold a jury trial within 10 days, with only a limited exception for a 15-day continuance if requested by the proposed conservatee. However, the court held that the trial court's failure to commence trial within 10 days of the jury trial demand did not support dismissal of the petition. Rather, the time limit in section 5350, subdivision (d)(2), is directory, not mandatory, because the Legislature has not expressly provided for dismissal of the conservatorship petition if a trial is not held within 10 days. Furthermore, objector was not prejudiced and denied due process. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Conservatorship of Jose B." on Justia Law

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Goros, age 92, filed suit alleging that Kindred Healthcare violated the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (Welf. & Inst. Code 15600) by failing to timely obtain medical treatment for her after she suffered a stroke while a patient at their nursing home. After Goros’s death about two years later, her daughter substituted in as successor in interest and added a claim for wrongful death. The trial court granted the defendants summary judgment, predicated on the exclusion of the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert on the issue of causation.The court of appeal affirmed. The plaintiff’s expert failed to provide any basis for his opinions and stated only that “his opinion is based on his experience and documented medical literature.” The plaintiff cites no evidence contradicting the court’s finding that her expert did not have the education or experience to render an opinion about the cause or treatment of Goros’s stroke, as required by Evidence Code section 720(a). Qualifications on a related subject matter are insufficient. View "Lowery v. Kindren Healthcare Operating, Inc." on Justia Law

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In June 2018, plaintiffs-respondents Suzanne Yang and Doc Yang Medical Corporation sued defendants-appellants Tenet Healthcare Inc. doing business as John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital (the hospital), its medical staff, and individual doctors, alleging defamation and nine other causes of action. Defendants filed a special motion to strike (anti-SLAPP motion) targeting only the defamation cause of action. Dr. Yang alleged that since March 2016, defendants conspired to drive her practice out of business in various ways, including by making defamatory statements. Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion contended that the statements were protected activity because they were made in connection with the hospital’s peer review process, and because they were made in furtherance of the exercise of the right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest. Defendants also contended that Dr. Yang could not demonstrate a probability of prevailing because she consented to the peer review process that the statements were purportedly in connection with, and because the statements were privileged. Applying the California Supreme Court's recent opinion in FilmOn.com Inc. v. DoubleVerify, Inc., 7 Cal.5th 133 (2019), and concluded defendants’ conduct arose from protected activity because their allegedly defamatory statements were made in connection with an issue of public interest. Furthermore, the Court concluded Dr. Yang did not demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits. The Court therefore reversed the trial court, which denied the anti-SLAPP motion. View "Yang v. Tenet Healthcare Inc." on Justia Law

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In January 2017, plaintiffs Lori Dougherty and Julie Lee's 89-year-old father passed away while living in Somerford Place, an elder residential care facility owned and operated by defendants Roseville Heritage Partners, Somerford Place, LLC, Five Star Quality Care, Inc., and Five Star Quality Care-Somerford, LLC. In July 2017, plaintiffs sued defendants, alleging elder abuse and wrongful death based upon the reckless and negligent care their father received while residing in defendants’ facility. Defendants appealed the trial court’s denial of their motion to compel arbitration and stay the action, contending the arbitration agreement did not contain any unconscionable or unlawful provisions. Alternatively, defendants argued the court abused its discretion by invalidating the agreement as a whole, rather than severing the offending provisions. The Court of Appeal found the arbitration agreement at issue here was "buried within the packet at pages 43 through 45," and "[b]ased on the adhesiveness of the agreement, and the oppression and surprise present," the Court concluded the trial court properly found the Agreement was imposed on a “take it or leave it” basis and evinced a high degree of procedural unconscionability. Under the sliding scale approach, only a low level of substantive unconscionability was required to render the arbitration agreement unenforceable. Likewise, the Court concurred that the arbitration agreement was substantively unconscionable, "particularly given the accompanying evidence of procedural unconscionability." The Court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court's declination to sever the offending provisions of the agreement, rather than invalidate the entire agreement. View "Dougherty v. Roseville Heritage Partners" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Aetna. In plaintiff's first cause of action, plaintiff alleged that Aetna violated Health & Safety Code section 1371.4. In plaintiff's second cause of action, plaintiff alleged that Aetna breached an implied contract based on its prior dealing with Aetna by not paying for the emergency medical services it rendered to a patient covered by Aetna's health care service plan. The court held that there were triable issues of fact as to whether plaintiff provided and billed for emergency services and was entitled to reimbursement from Aetna. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "San Jose Neurospine v. Aetna Health of California, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for defendant, a managed care health plan that provides health coverage to low-income individuals under Medi-Cal.The court held that the legislative history of Welfare and Institutions Code section 14105.28, along with the statement of legislative intent within the statute itself, indicate that the Legislature intended the APR-DRG (All Patient Refined Diagnosis Related Group) rates to apply to out-of-network inpatient poststabilization services under Medi-Cal. Consistent with the legislature's intent, the court interpreted the phrase "managed care inpatient days" to refer to services provided pursuant to a managed care contract, that is, in-network services. View "Dignity Health v. Local Initiative Health Care Authority of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (Physicians Committee) filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to prohibit local educational agencies Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Poway Unified School District (PUSD) from serving processed meats in their schools, and directing them to modify wellness policies to reflect the goal of reducing or eliminating processed meats. The local educational agencies demurred, arguing they were under no statutory obligation to reduce or eliminate processed meat from schools. The trial court granted the demurrers. Physicians Committee appealed, contending the local educational agencies' failure to reduce or eliminate processed meat from schools abused their discretion in developing statutorily-mandated, local wellness policies. After review, the Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the judgment. View "Physicians Com. for Responsible etc. v. L.A. Unified School Dist." on Justia Law

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This case arose following the death of Eric, a resident of Chapala House, licensed as a “long-term health care facility” under the Long-Term Care, Health, Safety, and Security Act of 1973 (the Act) - more specifically, as an “[i]ntermediate care facility/developmentally disabled habilitative” (ICF/DD-H). Plaintiff-appellant RSCR Inland, Inc. (ResCare) owned Chapala House. Defendant-appellant California Department of Public Health (the Department) issued a citation and imposed a civil penalty on ResCare in connection with Eric’s death, and ResCare brought this lawsuit to challenge the citation and penalty. The Court of Appeal addressed the scope of the “reasonable licensee defense” through which a California long-term health care facility could show that a citation for a regulatory or statutory violation should be dismissed, even though there was a factual basis for the citation. The Department argued the defense was available only in the event of an “emergency” or “special circumstances.” The Court of Appeal rejected that view, holding that the facility may succeed in dismissing a citation by demonstrating that it did what might reasonably be expected of a long-term health care facility licensee, acting under similar circumstances, to comply with the regulation or statute that allegedly was violated. “This standard differs from the required showing of due care in a typical negligence case because the facility must show reasonable care directed at complying with the regulation or statute, not reasonable conduct in general. But the standard does not require an emergency or an unusual circumstance.” Applying the statutory standard, the Court concluded substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that the facility here had established the reasonable licensee defense. View "RSCR Inland, Inc. v. State Dept. of Public Health" on Justia Law