Justia Health Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
Ortega v. Sanford Bismarck, et al.
Nancy Ortega appealed a district court order granting summary judgment in favor of Sanford Bismarck and Dr. Christie Iverson on her professional negligence claim. The matter was dismissed without prejudice. Ortega was seen at Sanford Bismarck for upper right abdomen pain. A CT scan revealed she had a right ovarian tumor. Dr. Iverson performed surgery to remove her left ovary. The surgery included a hysterectomy, bilateral salpingectomy, left oophorectomy and lysis of adhesions. Several months later, Dr. Iverson performed a second surgery to remove the right ovary. Ortega filed suit alleging malpractice when Dr. Iverson removed the left ovary instead of the right. The hospital and doctor moved to dismiss, arguing Ortega could not establish she suffered any damages. Although not argued by the hospital or doctor, the trial court held Ortega failed to file an admissible expert opinion supporting a prima facie medical malpractice claim within three months of filing her action, as required under N.D.C.C. 28-01-46. The court held Dr. Iverson’s removal of the ovary was not an “obvious occurrence” precluding application of 28-01-46, and that the “wrong organ” exception in the statute did not apply. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that Sanford and Dr. Iverson did not assert Ortega’s claims were barred by N.D.C.C 28-01-46, and they conceded the statute would not apply. Under these facts and circumstances, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in applying N.D.C.C. 28-01-46 to grant summary judgment. The judgment was therefore reversed, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Ortega v. Sanford Bismarck, et al." on Justia Law
Interest of B.A.K.
B.A.K. appealed an order for treatment in which the district court found her to be a person who was mentally ill and requiring treatment. B.A.K. was initially hospitalized after an outburst at her regular physician's office. In March 2018, her daughter petitioned for B.A.K.'s involuntary commitment. B.A.K.'s husband also attempted to commit B.A.K. while they were in Arizona for the winter. At the treatment hearing, the district court heard testimony about B.A.K.'s mental health deterioration and her refusal to take medication. In October 2017, B.A.K. started taking anxiety and depression medication. She then experienced joint pain, and she was prescribed a steroid. B.A.K. was also taking a prescribed statin for high blood pressure. B.A.K. decided to take herself off the anxiety and depression medications, and she eventually stopped taking all medications. B.A.K. believed she was being monitored, among other delusions. On appeal, B.A.K. argued the district court's order was not supported by clear and convincing evidence to show she was a mentally ill person and a person requiring treatment. After review of the Case, the North Dakota Supreme Court was "left with a definite and firm conviction" the district court's conclusion was not supported by clear and convincing evidence: "Despite Dr. Huber's testimony that she believed B.A.K. was a person requiring treatment, she also testified B.A.K. required no restraint, medication, or seclusion while hospitalized. ... Dr. Huber identified B.A.K. was manic and had delusional thoughts, but no evidence was presented showing a reasonable expectation B.A.K. would be a serious risk to herself, others, or property." The Court held the district court clearly erred in finding B.A.K. required treatment, and reversed the district court's order. View "Interest of B.A.K." on Justia Law
St. Alexius Medical Center v. N.D. Dep’t of Human Services
St. Alexius Medical Center, doing business as Great Plains Rehabilitation ("Great Plains"), appealed a district court judgment affirming a Department of Human Services ("the Department") determination that the Department was entitled to recoup overpayments made to Great Plains. Great Plains argued the Department's decision had to be reversed because the Department did not issue the decision within the statutory time limit, the Department did not provide a fair process for disputing the Department's position, and the Department's findings of fact are not supported by the evidence. Finding no reversible error in the district court or the Department's decisions, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "St. Alexius Medical Center v. N.D. Dep't of Human Services" on Justia Law
Interest of B.A.C.
B.A.C. appealed a district court order for involuntary hospitalization and involuntary treatment with medication. B.A.C. was admitted to the North Dakota State Hospital on June 6, 2017. Prior to being admitted, B.A.C. drove his car into a pond near Devils Lake. He then walked barefoot away from the pond and invaded a private residence. When confronted inside, B.A.C. offered to buy the property. After B.A.C. was ordered to leave, he walked approximately two miles further before he was apprehended by police. In talking to the police officers, B.A.C. made several delusional statements about Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump, which included stating that he himself was the richest man in the world and that was why Bill Clinton wanted to kill him. The police took B.A.C. to a hospital in Devils Lake. He was then transported to the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown. The State Hospital petitioned the district court for involuntary commitment of B.A.C. At the State Hospital, B.A.C. had refused to take prescribed medication and expressed his wish to leave the hospital. An examination was performed by a doctor of psychology at the State Hospital, who found B.A.C. to be mentally ill and noted that if "untreated on an inpatient basis he would likely place himself at risk, as he did just prior to the current admission." A psychiatrist performed an independent evaluation on B.A.C. and found him to have a primary psychotic disorder, and also believed releasing B.A.C. from the hospital without treatment would likely result in self-harm. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court order, concluding that B.A.C.'s release did not moot this appeal and that the district court did not clearly err when it found by clear and convincing evidence that B.A.C. was a mentally ill person requiring inpatient treatment. View "Interest of B.A.C." on Justia Law
Limberg v. Sanford Medical Center Fargo
According to the complaint, Dustin Limberg sought emergency department care and treatment at Sanford Medical Center Fargo. He did not have insurance and was asked to sign, and did sign, Sanford's "Statement of Financial Responsibility and Release of Information" form ("the contract"). After receiving his bill for the visit, Limberg filed a class action lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that Sanford's billing practices were unfair, unconscionable, or unreasonable because the contract contained an "open price" term. He claimed the term "all charges" as referenced in the Sanford contract was ambiguous and he and the class were liable to Sanford only for the reasonable value of the treatment and services provided to them. Sanford moved for dismissal, which the district court granted. Limberg appealed. On appeal, he argued the district court should not have dismissed the case. Because the district court appropriately dismissed the case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Limberg v. Sanford Medical Center Fargo" on Justia Law
Interest of G.A.S.
On May 12, 2016, G.A.S.'s mother petitioned for involuntary commitment at St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck after hospital personnel became concerned about G.A.S.'s health because he refused psychiatric medication. G.A.S. waived a preliminary hearing, and on May 17, 2016, the district court ordered him involuntarily committed for 14 days. G.A.S. appealed a district court order authorizing involuntary treatment with prescribed medication. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not violate G.A.S.'s statutory rights by accepting testimony from one of G.A.S.'s treating psychiatrists, and the court's factual findings were supported by the evidence. View "Interest of G.A.S." on Justia Law
Schmitt v. MeritCare Health System
Plaintiff-Appellant John Schmitt appealed the dismissal of his claims against MeritCare Health System for defamation, tortious interference with a prospective business advantage, and violation of state antitrust law. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that Plaintiff's allegations lacked merit, and affirmed the grant of summary judgment dismissing his claims. View "Schmitt v. MeritCare Health System" on Justia Law
Weeks v. Geiermann
Plaintiff-Appellant Sean Weeks appealed a summary judgment that dismissed his claims against Michael Geiermann and Collection Center, Inc. (collectively "Collection Center") for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In 2009, Plaintiff brought this action against the Center for its attempt to collect $3,034.21 in interest on a debt he owed to Medcenter One for clinic and hospital services. Plaintiff obtained medical services from Medcenter's clinic and hospital. According to billing records for the clinic, Plaintiff received services between 2002 and 2008 and was billed $6,752.46, of which his insurance paid $4,698.72. After an insurance adjustment of $1,427.26, Weeks was responsible for $626.48. Weeks paid $453.40, and after another adjustment of $2.03, $171.05 remained unpaid. In July 2009, attorney Geiermann on behalf of Collection Center sent Plaintiff a letter, demanding payment to the hospital for $4,481.22 and to the clinic for $171.05. The letter also demanded $3,003.28 in interest for the hospital and $30.93 in interest for the clinic. The district court granted Collection Center's summary judgment motion and dismissed Plaintiff's action, stating the case was "fairly straightforward." The court held there was no disagreement that Plaintiff had incurred a debt to Medcenter for medical services that remained unpaid which constituted a "legal indebtedness." The court further held that, according to Plaintiff's affidavit, he never received anything in writing from Medcenter indicating any interest would be assessed in the event of nonpayment of this debt after a specified period of time. The court concluded "as a matter of law, that [Collection Center was] rightfully entitled to collect interest from Weeks at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum on the legal indebtedness owed by Weeks to [Collection Center], as the assignee of Medcenter One." Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that a "medical services provider," who does not make disclosures required under N.D.C.C. 13-01-15 to charge the "late payment charge" allowed under N.D.C.C. 13-01-14.1, is still entitled to prejudgment interest under N.D.C.C. 47-14-05 at the legal rate of six percent per annum. View "Weeks v. Geiermann" on Justia Law