Justia Health Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
Doane v. Department of Health & Human Services
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court concluding that a provider’s participation in MaineCare constitutes a “license,” the revocation of which invokes the district court jurisdiction. The superior court declared that the district court, and not the Department of Health and Human Services, had exclusive original jurisdiction over the decision to terminate a doctor’s participation in, and reimbursement from, MaineCare and any other medical assistance programs in the state of Maine. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment entered in favor of the doctor and remanded the matter, holding that the Department’s decision to terminate the doctor’s participation in the MaineCare program did not fall within the licensing decisions over which the legislature gave the district court original and exclusive jurisdiction. View "Doane v. Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law
Estate of Paul F. Treworgy v. Commissioner, Department of Health & Human Services
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory claims against the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services and two Department employees. Plaintiffs alleged the same facts in an earlier action filed in federal court arising out of the same allegedly wrongful acts. The federal court dismissed all claims against the Commission for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and dismissed the claims against one of the employees for Plaintiffs’ failure timely to serve her. Approximately one year later, Plaintiffs filed this action. The superior court dismissed all of Plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the claims against all three defendants were barred by the claim preclusion component of the doctrine of res judicata. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err by dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims against the two employees on claim preclusion grounds because the employees had a sufficiently close relationship to the Commissioner to satisfy the requirement of claim preclusion of “sufficient identically between the parties in the two actions.” View "Estate of Paul F. Treworgy v. Commissioner, Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law
Gessner v. State
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Mark Gessner’s petition for release from the Riverview Psychiatric Center. On appeal, Gessner argued that the statute governing his opportunity for release from institutional inpatient residency, Me. Rev. Stat. 15, 104-A, was unconstitutionally vague as applied to him. Because Gessner did not raise the vagueness issue to the trial court, the Supreme Judicial Court reviewed for obvious error. The court held (1) considering Gessner’s history of mental illness and violence and his refusal to acknowledge his mental illness or to participate in treatment, the statute’s terms were not unconstitutionally vague for purposes of addressing the individual circumstances at issue in this case; and (2) therefore, Gessner failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that the court committed obvious error. View "Gessner v. State" on Justia Law
In re Henry B.
After Henry B. was admitted to Pen Bay Medical Center (PBMC), PBMC staff applied to involuntarily commit Henry pursuant to the “white paper” procedures of Me. Rev. Stat. 34-B, 3863(5-A). After a commitment hearing, the district court ordered that Henry be submit to involuntary hospitalization for up to 120 days. The superior court affirmed the district court’s judgment of involuntary commitment. Henry appealed, arguing that he was not provided with effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) individuals subject to involuntary commitment proceedings in Maine have the right to effective representation of counsel, and the Strickland standard applies for courts reviewing claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in involuntary commitment proceedings; and (2) Henry was not deprived of the effective assistance of counsel in this case. View "In re Henry B." on Justia Law
Perry v. Dean
After William Dean was involuntarily hospitalized, the Department of Health and Human Services was appointed as Dean’s temporary public conservator. Thereafter, the Department sold some of Dean’s property. Dean’s sister, Claire Perry, filed a complaint against the Department and certain state individuals, asserting claims arising out of the Department’s management of Dean’s property during the public conservatorship. Later, Pamela Vose was appointed as Dean’s conservator. Vose filed a cross-claim and then a separate action against the Department, alleging breach of fiduciary duty. The court consolidated the two cases. The Department and the individual state defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting sovereign immunity. The court entered a summary judgment in favor of the defendants on most claims but denied the Department’s motions for summary judgment on Vose’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty in both cases, concluding that the Maine Probate Court waived sovereign immunity and that the Department was subject to suit in tort when acting as a public conservator. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order denying the Department’s motions for summary judgment, holding that the Department is immune from the breach of fiduciary duty claims asserted in these cases because the Probate Code does not expressly waive sovereign immunity and the Department did not waive immunity. View "Perry v. Dean" on Justia Law
Doherty v. Merck & Co., Inc.
After Plaintiff gave birth to a son, she filed a complaint against Merck & Co., Inc. and the United States, alleging that a community health center physician negligently failed to insert into her arm an implant manufactured by Merck that was designed to prevent pregnancy as a result of Merck’s defective applicator. The federal court certified questions of state law to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The Court answered (1) the protection of Maine’s Wrongful Birth statute extends to Merck as a drug manufacturer and distributor; and (2) pursuant to the Wrongful Birth statute, Plaintiff may not recover any damages on her claims against either defendant because of the nature of the procedure she underwent. View "Doherty v. Merck & Co., Inc." on Justia Law
In re Steven L.
Steven L., who suffered from a severe and persistent mental illness, was twice involuntarily admitted to a progressive treatment program for a period of one year. In 2015, a psychiatric hospital operated by the Department of Health and Human Services applied to the district court for a twelve-month extension of the progressive treatment program order. The district court granted the motion and ordered the extension. The superior court affirmed. Steven then appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Court affirmed, holding that the trial record supported the court’s findings by clear and convincing evidence. View "In re Steven L." on Justia Law
State v. Begin
In 2004, Jason Begin was committed to the custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services based upon a finding that he was not criminally responsible for certain crimes by reason of insanity. In 2015, Begin filed a petition requesting a hearing on his fitness for release and return to permanent residency in the community. The superior court denied Begin’s request for release. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the trial court was not compelled to find in Begin’s favor on his petition for release. View "State v. Begin" on Justia Law
Beal v. State
Petitioner was charged with terrorizing and criminal restraint with a dangerous weapon. Petitioner was found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disease or defect and committed to the custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. A decade later, Petitioner filed a petition for discharge from custody. The superior court denied the petition for discharge after a hearing, finding that Petitioner remained afflicted with a mental disease or defect that rendered her dangerous to herself, to others, and to property. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err by denying Petitioner’s petition for discharge because the evidence did not compel a finding that Petitioner may be discharged without likelihood that she will cause injury to herself or others due to a mental disease or defect. View "Beal v. State" on Justia Law
In re Guardianship of Harold Sanders
The probate court issued an adjudication of incapacity and appointed the Department of Health and Human Services as the public guardian of Harold Sanders, finding that Sanders was incapacitated, that no suitable private guardian was available, and that the appointment of a public guardian was necessary or desirable. Sanders appealed, arguing that the probate court did not have jurisdiction to appoint a guardian for him because his situation did not comport with any basis for jurisdiction in the adult guardianship statute. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed and vacated the judgment of the probate court, holding that Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-A, 5-523(b)(3) did not vest the court with jurisdiction to appoint a nontemporary guardian for Sanders. View "In re Guardianship of Harold Sanders" on Justia Law