Justia Health Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
Wingfield v. Department of Public Health & Human Services
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
In re Mental Health of W.K.
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
Barrus v. Montana First Judicial District Court
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
Totem Beverages, Inc. v. Great Falls-Cascade County City-County Board of Health
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
In re B.A.F.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court extending B.A.F.’s commitment to the Montana Mental Health Nursing Care Center, holding that the requirements of Mont. Code Ann. 53-21-119(1) did not apply when B.A.F. requested a hearing to stipulate to the extension of his involuntary commitment.On appeal, B.A.F. argued that the district court’s recommitment should be reversed because the record lacked evidence demonstrating that B.A.F. understood his statutory rights, the nature of the proceeding, and intentionally and knowingly waived those rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 53-21-119(1) did not apply because B.A.F. did not seek a hearing on the petition to extend his commitment and that B.A.F. made it clear to the court that he understood his circumstances and intentionally agreed to the extension of care. View "In re B.A.F." on Justia Law
In re B.H.
The Supreme Court affirmed the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order entered by the district court committing B.H. to the Montana State Hospital (MSH), holding that the district court did not commit plain error regarding the procedural safeguards in Mont. Code Ann. 53-21-122(2)(a) necessitating appellate review.After the district court committed B.H. to the MSH for a period not to exceed ninety days, B.H. appealed, arguing that the district court erred by failing to advise him of his constitutional and statutory rights during his initial appearance, as required in civil commitment proceedings under section 53-21-122(2)(a). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while the district court did not provide a complete advisory of rights to B.H., B.H. failed to establish that the error resulted in a manifest miscarriage of justice, implicated the fundamental fairness of the proceedings, or comprised the dignity of the judicial prejudice. Therefore, any error in the manner in which this proceeding was conduct did not result in substantial prejudice. View "In re B.H." on Justia Law
In re J.J.
The Supreme Court held that Montana law does not preclude physical restraint of a seriously mentally ill individual during transportation from a courtroom to a hospital or mental health facility.The district court ordered J.J., who suffered from severe and chronic mental illness, involuntarily committed to Montana State Hospital (MSH). Thereafter, J.J. requested that he not be handcuffed in the sheriff’s vehicle on the way to MSH. The district court denied the request. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while Mont. Code Ann. 53-21-146 provides patients a statutory right to be free from physical restraint, nothing in the plain language of the statute leads to the conclusion that it applies to transportation. Further, Montana law enforcement officers owe the public a general duty to preserve the peace and protect the public from harm inflicted by third persons. Because J.J.’s potential for serious injury or harm was high and foreseeable, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it failed to grant J.J.’s request not to be handcuffed during transportation. View "In re J.J." on Justia Law
In re S.D.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court approving S.D.’s waiver of her rights and ordering S.D.’s involuntary commitment, holding that the district court did not violate S.D.’s statutory and due process rights when it committed her without holding a hearing.The State filed a petition against S.D., alleging that she suffered from a mental disorder and required involuntary commitment. S.D. and her attorney signed a “waiver of hearing on petition,” and S.D. expressly waived all her procedural rights listed in Mont. Code Ann. 53-21-115 to -118 except the right to receive treatment. The district court issued an order committing S.D. to the Montana State Hospital. S.D. appealed, arguing that the district court erred when it committed her upon her signed waiver without a hearing or trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that both S.D.’s waiver and the district court’s order committing her were sufficient to find an intentional and knowing waiver pursuant to section 53-21-119(1), and it was not necessary for the court to set a hearing to inquire further into S.D.’s waiver of rights. View "In re S.D." on Justia Law
Gazelka v. St. Peter’s Hospital
Montana’s Preferred Provider Agreements Act (MPPAA), Mont. Code Ann. 33-22-1701 to -1707, does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Montana Constitution.Plaintiff sought and received treatment from St. Peter’s Hospital for various injuries and symptoms. Because Plaintiff did not have health insurance the Hospital billed Plaintiff directly, but almost all of Plaintiff’s treatments costs were either covered by another party’s insurance or significantly discounted by the Hospital’s financial-need discount. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit arguing that the statutes authorizing the Hospital’s billing practices violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Montana Constitution. The district court concluded that the MPPAA creates similarly situated classes but does not violate Plaintiff’s equal protection rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the MPPAA, which authorizes the Hospital’s billing practices, does not deprive Plaintiff of her right to equal protection. View "Gazelka v. St. Peter's Hospital" on Justia Law
In re S.M.
Mont. Code Ann. 53-21-119(1), which prohibits a person from waiving the right to counsel in civil commitment proceedings, does not violate the Sixth or the Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.After the State filed a petition to involuntarily commit Respondent, Respondent advised the district court that he wished to waive counsel and represent himself. The district court denied Respondent’s request. The district court later approved a stipulation entered into by Respondent, together with his appointed counsel, for commitment to community-based treatment, and ordered Respondent’s commitment. On appeal, Respondent argued that section 53-21-119(1) violates his constitutional rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Due Process clause does not establish as fundamental the right to represent oneself in civil commitment proceedings; and (2) the prohibition against waiver in civil commitment proceedings is reasonably related to a permissible legislative objective. View "In re S.M." on Justia Law