Justia Health Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Geisinger Health System, et al v. Pennsylvania
In a direct appeal, the issue before the Supreme Court in this case was the constitutionality of legislation mandating a one-time transfer of money from the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund to Pennsylvania's General Fund. The Commonwealth faced a budget impasse for the 2009-10 fiscal year that lasted approximately 100 days. An interim budget was passed, and impasse was resolved when the Governor approved a supplemental appropriations bill, as well as implementing legislation making amendments to Pennsylvania's Fiscal Code. One of Act provisions designed to balance the budget directed that $100 million be transferred from the MCARE Fund to the General Fund. Appellees sought a declaration that: (1) the transfer of $100 million from the MCARE Fund to the General Fund extinguished vested rights or constituted an illegal taking in violation of the due process guarantees contained the Commonwealth and federal constitutions; and (2) the transfer violated the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Concerned that the Commonwealth might effectuate the transfer and dissipate the funds, Appellees filed an application for preliminary injunctive relief (a temporary restraining order). After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the October 2009 amendment to the Fiscal Code transferring $100 million from the MCARE Fund to the General Fund implicated the providers' due process rights, but that the question of whether the legislation was finally unconstitutional requires further factual development. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Commonwealth Court's order granting summary relief. View "Geisinger Health System, et al v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law
Cooper v. Lankenau Hospital, et al
Appellants sought a new trial in this medical battery/lack-of-consent case on the ground that the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on the technical elements of battery, particularly the intent to cause a harmful or offensive contact. They further maintained that the charge was erroneous because it instructed the jury that Appellants-Plaintiffs were required to prove that the surgeon who performed the allegedly unauthorized operation did so with the intent to harm. Viewing the jury charge in its entirety, the Supreme Court concluded that it clearly and accurately set forth the law. Contrary to Appellants' contentions, the jury charge did not require proof that the surgeon performed the operation with the intent to harm. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the order of the Superior Court, which affirmed the trial court's entry of judgment on the verdict in favor of Appellees. View "Cooper v. Lankenau Hospital, et al" on Justia Law
Pa. Medical Society v. Pennsylvania
The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) and the Office of the Budget of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appealed a Commonwealth Court order which granted summary judgment to Appellees the Pennsylvania Medical Society and its individual members, and the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania and its individual members. The court declared that the Commonwealth had an obligation under the Health Care Provider Retention Law (the Abatement Law) to transfer monies to the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund (MCARE Fund) in an amount necessary to fund dollar for dollar, all abatements of annual assessments granted to health care providers for the years 2003-2007. Upon review of the Commonwealth Court record, the Supreme Court held that the Abatement Law gave the Secretary of the Budget the discretion, but not the obligation, to transfer monies into the MCARE Fund in an amount up to the total amount of abatements granted. Furthermore, the Court concluded that Apellees had no statutory entitlement to the funds held in abatement, nor a vested right to them. View "Pa. Medical Society v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law
Petty v. Hospital Service Assoc. of NE Penna.
Appellant Robert Petty is sole owner of Co-Appellant R.G. Petty Masonry. Appellants contracted with Respondent Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (Blue Cross), a nonprofit hospital corporation that provides health insurance coverage for its employees. Appellants are covered under the group policy as subscribers. Appellants filed a four-count class action suit against Blue Cross, alleging that it violated the state Nonprofit Law by accumulating excessive profits and surplus well beyond the "incidental profit" permitted by statute. The second count alleged Blue Cross breached its contract with Appellants by violating the Nonprofit Law. The third count alleged Blue Cross owed appellants a fiduciary duty by virtue of their status as subscribers, and that duty was breached when it accrued the excess surplus. The fourth count requested an inspection of Blue Cross' business records. The trial court found Appellants lacked standing to challenge Blue Cross' alleged violations of the Nonprofit Law and dismissed the suit. The Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court. Upon careful consideration of the briefs submitted by the parties in addition to the applicable legal authorities, the Supreme Court found that Appellants indeed lacked standing under the Nonprofit Law to challenge Blue Cross by their four-count complaint. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the lower courts' decisions and dismissed Appellants' case.