Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court

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In 2001, Robert Riskind suffered a grand mal seizure while driving home from work, causing him to strike Plaintiff. Plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident. Riskind's seizure was triggered by an inoperable brain tumor, a condition for which he had been receiving treatment from Dr. Fred Hochberg since its diagnosis. Riskind died in 2002 as a result of the brain tumor. Plaintiff subsequently filed a negligence action against Hochberg. Hochberg moved for summary judgment, arguing that, as a matter of law, he owed Plaintiff neither a duty to control Riskind nor a duty to warn Riskind against driving. A superior court judge granted Hochberg's summary judgment motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a medical professional, other than a mental health professional, owes no duty to a third person arising from any claimed special relationship between the medical professional and a patient; and (2) Hochberg did not owe a duty of care to Plaintiff under ordinary negligence principals. View "Medina v. Hochberg" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought release from commitment as a sexually dangerous person. After being found indigent, Petitioner filed a motion requesting that the judge authorize funds to retain the services of an independent qualified examiner to evaluate Petitioner and to assist in the preparation of his case. The judge approved the motion for funds in the amount of $2,500. Petitioner subsequently retained a licensed psychologist who agreed to conduct an evaluation of Petitioner and to testify at trial at the hourly rate approved by the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS): $190 an hour. After trial, Petitioner moved for the authorization of an additional $2,060 to compensate the psychologist. The trial judge allowed the motion in the amount of $1,500. The appeals court denied Petitioner's appeal, concluding that the judge did not err in limiting the expert's compensation to $4,000, which was "reasonable under the circumstances." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a judge is bound by CPCS's determination of an hourly rate but still retains the authority to determine whether the total amount billed is reasonable; and (2) the judge in this case acted in accordance with these limits in determining the reasonable amount of the expert's fee. View "In re Edwards" on Justia Law

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In two separate actions, seven Massachusetts hospitals and one managed health care organization that disproportionately provided medical care to the poor alleged that the Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services violated her obligation to reimburse them for the reasonable costs incurred in providing medical services to MassHealth enrollees. A superior court judge granted the Secretary's motion for judgment on the pleadings in one case and the Secretary's motion to dismiss in the other, concluding as a matter of law that the plaintiffs could not prevail even if their allegations were true. The plaintiffs appealed, and the cases were consolidated. The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions denying the plaintiffs' claims, holding that the plaintiffs' redress for their claims rested in the political arena, not in the courts. View "Boston Med. Ctr. v. Sec'y of the Executive Office of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law

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This case involved Commonwealth Care, a state-initiated program that provided structured premium assistance for low-income Massachusetts residents. In 2009, the Legislature made certain changes to the eligibility requirements of Commonwealth Care, enacted in a two-part supplemental appropriation for fiscal year 2010. Section 31(a) of the appropriation excluded all aliens who were federally ineligible under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), 8 U.S.C. 1601-1646, from participation in Commonwealth Care. Plaintiffs were individuals who either have been terminated from Commonwealth Care or have been denied eligibility solely as a result of their alienage. The court held that section 31(a) could not pass strict scrutiny and that the discrimination against legal immigrants that its limiting language embodied violated their rights to equal protection under the Massachusetts Constitution.

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This was an action for judicial review of a final decision and order of the board suspending Stephen Chadwick's license to practice dentistry in Massachusetts. Because the court agreed that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Gade v. National Solid Wastes Mgt. Ass'n applied to the disciplinary proceeding, the court concluded that, while the board could mandate compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), 29 U.S.C. 651 et seq., standards in dental practices and sanction dentists for professional misconduct after OSHA determined that a violation had occurred, the board could not interpret, apply, and enforce OSHA standards regarding workplace safety on its own record. The court further concluded that the preemptive effect of OSHA articulated in Gade also barred the board from sanctioning Chadwick based on conduct it found to be violative of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and department regulations, where such action constituted the direct and substantial regulation of occupational safety and health issues for which Federal OSHA standards were in effect. The court further concluded that the board's one finding unrelated to a formal OSHA standard was supported by substantial evidence

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Following the death of plaintiff's wife, plaintiff amended the complaint for medical malpractice in a pending action against defendants, to include a claim for wrongful death. The wrongful death claim in the amended complaint was subsequently dismissed as time barred pursuant to G.L.c. 260, section 4 (statute of repose), and plaintiff appealed. The court held that a wrongful death claim could be substituted for a personal injury claim only where the trial had not commenced; the original complaint alleging malpractice was filed within the statutes of limitation and repose; and the allegations of liability supporting the personal injury claim were the same as those supporting the wrongful death claim. Accordingly, the court held that the wrongful death claim in this case should not have been dismissed where plaintiff could, after the period of time set forth in the statue of repose had expired, amend a complaint alleging medical malpractice resulting in injury including expected premature death.

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Plaintiff filed suit against Liberty Mutual, both personally and on behalf of a putative class of similarly situated individuals, alleging that the company's failure to disburse "medical payments" coverage (MedPay) benefits to her constituted a breach of contract, a breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and a violation of G.L.c. 93A, 2. At issue was whether a claimant could seek medical expense benefits under the MedPay of a standard Massachusetts automobile insurance policy where she had already recovered for those expenses under a separate policy of health insurance. The court held that plaintiff's complaint and the extrinsic materials submitted by Liberty Mutual contained alleged facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." The court also held that Liberty Mutual had not demonstrated as a matter of law that plaintiff could not receive MedPay benefits when she already had received medical expense benefits under her policy of health insurance. Accordingly, the order allowing Liberty Mutual's motion to dismiss was reversed and the matter remanded.

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The subject of the present appeal was an order issued by a judge in the Probate and Family Court, authorizing the involuntary administration of antipsychotic medication (substituted judgment treatment order) to a mentally ill women under guardianship. The order was issued on February 2009 and has since expired, therefore, the appeal was moot. However, the court addressed the issue concerning notice requirements applicable to motions seeking substituted judgment treatment orders because that issue was likely to recur. The court held that a party filing a motion for entry of a substituted judgment treatment order must provide all other parties with at least seven days notice through service of a copy of the motion on them, and must give the same notice, through service, of every affidavit that will be filed in support of the motion.