Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction temporarily enjoining the implementation of three laws the Legislature enacted in 2021 that regulate or restrict abortion services, holding that there was no error of law or manifest abuse of discretion.In 2021, the Montana Legislature passed into law and the governor signed into law bills regulating or restricting abortions services and providing for various criminal penalties and civil remedies. The district court granted a preliminary injunction, finding that Plaintiffs made a prima facie showing that the challenged laws violated their rights under the Montana Constitution and determining that Plaintiffs would suffer irreparable injury if the challenged laws took effect. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that either ground on which the district court granted a preliminary injunction would have been sufficient to justify relief. View "Planned Parenthood of Montana v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted certification of two questions by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit regarding whether a charitable write-off of medical expenses may be recovered as damages or is subject to the collateral source rule.Specifically, the Supreme Court concluded (1) for a claim that accrued prior to the effective date of Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-308 a plaintiff in a survival action may not recover the reasonable value of medical care and related services when the costs of such services or care are wholly written off under the provider's charitable care program and the patient receives a zero-balance bill; and (2) for a claim that accrued prior to the effective date of Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-308, such a charitable care write-off is not a collateral source within the meaning of section 27-1-307. View "Gibson v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court involuntarily committing Respondent to the Montana State Hospital, holding that the waiver of Respondent's presence at the initial hearing on the State's petition was invalid.The Flathead County Attorney filed a petition for involuntary commitment, and the district court convened an initial appearance. Respondent, who suffered from vascular dementia and was hard of hearing, was not present in court, and his counsel asked to waive his presence at the initial hearing. The district court agreed to waive the initial appearance. After a hearing, the court found that Respondent suffered from a mental disorder and required commitment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court did not meet the statutory standards when it accepted counsel's waiver of Respondent's presence; and (2) the error prejudiced Respondent's substantial rights and compromised the integrity of the judicial process required in commitment proceedings. View "In re F.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order issued by the district court concerning the conservatorship and estate planning efforts of Appellant's elderly mother, H.D.K., holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion when it declined to issue a scheduling order; (2) did not abuse its discretion in declining to quash a subpoena for the file of H.D.K.'s attorney; (3) did not abuse its discretion when it concluded the conservatorship hearing after three days; (4) did not err when it issued findings regarding how H.D.K. intended to allocate her estate; (5) did not err by determining the present values of the properties in H.D.K.'s estate; and (6) did not err when it found H.D.K. had testamentary capacity. View "In re H.D.K." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court recommitting B.A.F. to the Montana Mental Health Nursing Care Center (MMHNCC) for a period of one year, holding that the district court did not err.In 2016, B.A.F., who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder, was involuntarily committed to the MMHNCC for his mental illness. The district court extended B.A.F.'s initial commitment period by one year each in 2017, 2018, and 2019. In this case, B.A.F. appealed the district court's 2019 order for recommitment, arguing that the court erred when it recommitted him without a post-petition mental health evaluation by a court-appointed professional, as statutorily required. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that B.A.F. failed to establish that the district court's error resulted in substantial prejudice, and therefore, B.A.F. did not meet the second prong of plain-error review. View "In re B.A.F." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court committing N.A. to Montana State Hospital (MSH) for a period of up to ninety days, holding that the district court committed reversible error when it allowed testimony by video conferencing at the commitment hearing over N.A.'s objection.The State filed a petition for N.A.'s involuntary commitment alleging that N.A. presented an imminent risk of harm to herself based upon her statements of suicidality. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court found that N.A. suffered from a mental disorder and required commitment and ordered that N.A. be involuntarily placed at MSH in Warm Springs for a period of up to ninety days. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court committed reversible error when it allowed testimony by video conferencing over N.A.'s objection. View "In re N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services' (DPHHS) motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that guardians had the authority to decide whether their wards would return to the At Home Assisted Living and At Home Also (collectively, At Home) facility.In 2017, the DPHHS suspended At Home's license for noncompliance with certain DPHHS rules and regulations and required the At Home residents to be relocated. After DPHHS reinstated At Home's license, some relocated residents who were wards with guardians appointed by DPHHS Adult Protection Services indicated their desire to return to the facility. The APS guardians refused to allow their wards to return. At Home and its owners sued DPHHS alleging intentional interference. The district court granted judgment on the pleadings for DPHHS. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining that the guardians had the authority to determine where the wards would reside and in thus granting judgment on the pleadings. View "Wingfield v. Department of Public Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court involuntarily committing Appellant to the Montana State Hospital (MSH) for a period not to exceed ninety days, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the court's finding that Appellant was substantially unable to provide for her own basic needs.After a hearing, the district court issued its findings that Appellant suffered from a serious mental illness requiring commitment because she represented a danger to herself and because she was unable to care for her own basic needs. The court concluded that commitment to MSH was the least restrictive alternative necessary to protect Appellant and to effectively treat her mental disorder. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that sufficient facts supported the district court's finding that Appellant required commitment to MSH. View "In re Mental Health of W.K." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld a district judge's order allowing the Montana State Hospital (MSH) to involuntarily medicate Petitioner if he refused to take prescribed antipsychotic medication, holding that the district court did not err in finding that important governmental interests were at stake in this case and that involuntary medication was likely to render Petitioner competent to stand trial and was in Petitioner's best interest.Petitioner was charged with five felonies arising from an incident including the shooting death of a law enforcement officer. Petitioner was found mentally unfit to proceed to trial due to a mental disorder, and MSH proposed a treatment plan, including antipsychotic medication, to try to render Petitioner mentally fit to stand trial. Because Petitioner refused to take the medication the State requested the district court to take the medication or allow MSH to give him involuntary injections of the medication. The district court granted the State's motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State met its burden of proving the relevant facts by clear and convincing evidence. View "Barrus v. Montana First Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court determining that a regulation of the Great Falls/Cascade County City-County Board of Health (Board) was invalid, holding that the Board was entitled to summary judgment.The Board claimed that Totem Beverages, Inc. violated the regulation at issue, which was intended to provide clarity regarding smoking shelters. Totem brought this action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. The district court granted Totem's motion for summary judgment and denied the Board's, concluding that the regulation conflicted with the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act (MCIAA) and Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) rules, in violation of Mont. Code Ann. 50-2-116(2)(c)(vi). Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) the regulation did not conflict with the MCIAA or DPHHS rules; and (2) the district court erred by dismissing Totem's selective enforcement claim. View "Totem Beverages, Inc. v. Great Falls-Cascade County City-County Board of Health" on Justia Law