Justia Health Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Missouri Supreme Court
Doe v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc.
After John Doe's HIV test results were sent by Quest to the church where Doe worked as personal assistant to the pastor, Doe filed suit against Quest Diagnostics Clinic Laboratories (Quest Laboratories) and its parent, Quest Diagnostics, alleging wrongful disclosure of HIV test results and breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court (1) entered a directed verdict in favor of Quest Diagnostics on the ground it was a separate corporation from Quest Laboratories and did not exercise such control over the latter that the corporate veil should be pierced; and (2) found in favor of Quest Laboratories on both counts. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment in favor of Quest Laboratories, holding that the trial court (1) committed prejudicial error in submitting an affirmative defense instruction requiring the jury to find for Quest Laboratories if it found Doe gave it "written authorization" to disclose his HIV test results, as the instruction was not supported by the evidence; and (2) erred in submitting Doe's claim of breach of fiduciary duty, as an adequate remedy at law already existed under Missouri statute. Remanded. View "Doe v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law
Watts v. Lester E. Cox Med. Ctrs.
Deborah Watts filed the underlying medical malpractice action alleging that her son was born with disabling brain injuries because Cox Medical Centers and its associated physicians (collectively, Cox) provided negligent health care services. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Watts and awarded $1.45 million in non-economic damages and $3.37 million in future medical damages. The trial court entered a judgment reducing Watts' non-economic damages to $350,000 as required by Mo. Rev. Stat. 538.210. The judgment also established a periodic payment schedule that required immediate payment of half of all net future medical damages with the other half paid in equal annual installments over the next fifty years with an interest rate of 0.26 percent. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the judgment to the extent it capped non-economic damages pursuant to section 538.210; (2) reversed the judgment to the extent that the trial court entered a periodic payment schedule that did not assure full recovery; and (3) affirmed in all other respects. View "Watts v. Lester E. Cox Med. Ctrs." on Justia Law
Mercy Hosps. E. Cmtys. v. Mo. Health Facilities Review Comm.
St. John's Mercy Health System challenged the validity of the Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee (MHFRC) rule that exempted new hospitals costing less than $1 million from the statutory requirement of obtaining a certificate of need. St. John's further sought to enjoin the MHFRC from applying the rule and granting Patients First Community Hospital an exemption from the certificate of need requirement. The trial court held that the case was not justiciable and dismissed the action without prejudice but proceeded to address the merits of St. John's claim, finding that the MHFRC had not exceeded its authority in promulgating the rule. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment as modified, holding (1) the case was ripe for judicial review; and (2) the new hospital rule was valid, and the MHFRC was within its authority to promulgate the rule. View "Mercy Hosps. E. Cmtys. v. Mo. Health Facilities Review Comm." on Justia Law
Sanders v. Ahmed
Ronald Sanders recovered judgments against Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed and Iftekhar Ahmed, P.A. (collectively, Defendants) for the wrongful death of his wife. After the jury returned a verdict awarding $9.2 million in non-economic damages, the trial court entered a judgment providing just over $1 million in non-economic damages in accordance with a statutory cap on non-economic damages. On appeal, Sanders challenged the constitutionality of the damages award cap, and Defendants appealed the judgment, the denial of reduction pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 537.060, and the denial of periodic payments. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in all respects except as to reduction under section 537.060, which permits a defendant's liability to be reduced by the amounts of settlements with joint tortfeasors. The Court reversed the judgment in respect to that section, as a discovery denial prejudiced Defendants' ability to plead and prove the affirmative defense of reduction, and insofar as the settlements included economic damages, the statutory cap would not obviate statutory reduction. Remanded. View "Sanders v. Ahmed" on Justia Law
Stone v. Mo. Dep’t of Health & Senior Servs.
Catherine Stone was employed as a nurse at a nursing facility when she physically restrained a patient in an attempt to force-feed the patient medication. The Department of Health and Senior Services placed Stone on the employee disqualification list for eighteen months after finding that Stone knowingly abused a patient. Stone sought review of the Department's decision, arguing that (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the decision because expert testimony was required to prove that she knowingly abused a patient with dementia and mental disabilities, and (2) the Department deprived her of due process of law by allegedly failing to provide notice of her violations. The circuit court reversed the decision of the Department. The Department appealed, and after opinion by the court of appeals, the Supreme Court granted transfer. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the Department's lay witnesses' testimony was substantial and competent evidence that Stone knowingly abused a patient; (2) the Department provided her with notice of her violations, and therefore, Stone's due process rights were not violated; and (3) the decision of the Department was authorized by law and supported by substantial and competent evidence.
State ex rel. Holzum v. J. Schneider
On the last day of a three-year limitations period, Eric Katz filed a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice in the death of his mother. After discovery, Katz amended the petition by adding several defendants and dropping others. At the time of the amendment, the statute of limitations had expired. Only one defendant named within the limitations period remained in the case. The newly added defendants moved to dismiss on the ground that the action was not commenced against them within the limitations period and that the amendment adding them did not relate back to the date of the original filing. The circuit court overruled the motions to dismiss, and the new defendants filed petitions for writs of prohibition. The two separate writ petitions were consolidated for decision. The Supreme Court issued preliminary writs for the petitions. The Court held that the amended petition did not relate back to the filing of the initial petition, and therefore, the statute of limitations barred Katz's lawsuit for wrongful death against the new defendants. The preliminary writs in this case were made permanent.
Mo. Ass’n of Nurse Anesthetists v. State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts
The State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts is an agency with the authority to register and supervise all state physicians, surgeons, and midwives. After receiving a series of letters regarding the propriety of instances in which a physician delegates certain pain management procedures to advance practice nurses (APNs), the Board published a letter stating that APNs did not have the appropriate training or experience to perform those procedures. Appellants, medical professionals, filed a petition in the circuit court seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the Board from enforcing its "letter rule" and claiming that (1) the Board's letter failed to adhere to statutory public rulemaking requirements, and (2) the Board's letter exceeded the authority of the Board insomuch as it defined the scope of practice for nurses. The trial court granted the Board's motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) the Board failed to comply with rulemaking procedures and therefore the letter had no legal effect; and (2) it was unclear whether the Board was attempting to regulate the practice of physicians or the practice of nursing. Therefore, the record did not support summary judgment as a matter of law.
Devitre v. The Orthopedic Ctr. of Saint Louis, L.L.C.
Plaintiff Sohrab Devitre was previously involved in a separate lawsuit in which he agreed to have an independent medical examination by Dr. Mitchell Rotman. After the conclusion of that case, Devitre sued Dr. Rotman and the medical center at which Dr. Rotman practiced for personal injuries caused during the examination. The defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit for Devitre's failure to file the health care affidavit as required by Mo. Rev. Stat. 538.225, and the trial court dismissed Devitre's action. On appeal, Devitre argued that (1) the trial court abused its discretion in dismissing the lawsuit because he was not a patient of the defendants, and (2) the medical examination conducted by the doctor did not create a physician-patient relationship that would trigger the requirement in Section 538.225 to file a health care affidavit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that recipients of an independent medical examination are patients of the physician for the limited purpose of conducting the examination, and therefore, a physician-patient relationship existed and triggered the requirement in the statute for the filing of a health care affidavit.