Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court

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In 2007, Linda Johnson enrolled her mother, Inez Roberts (Mrs. Roberts), in Heritage Healthcare of Estill (HHE) to receive nursing home care. Johnson held a general power of attorney for Mrs. Roberts, and as such, signed an arbitration agreement with HHE on her mother's behalf upon Mrs. Roberts's admission to HHE. Within six months of entering HHE, she developed severe pressure ulcers, resulting in the amputation of her leg and ultimately, her death in 2009. Prior to Mrs. Roberts's death, in August 2008, Johnson requested HHE allow her access to Mrs. Roberts's medical records, but HHE refused, citing privacy provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Johnson then filed an ex parte motion seeking to obtain a copy of Mrs. Roberts's medical records from HHE and to restrain HHE from changing, altering, or destroying the records. The circuit court granted a restraining order, and HHE filed a motion to dissolve the order, again citing HIPAA's privacy provisions. Subsequently, at Johnson's request, the circuit court appointed her Mrs. Roberts's guardian ad litem (GAL) in order to pacify HHE's HIPAA concerns. However, HHE still refused to produce the records. The court again ordered HHE to produce the records, and HHE appealed. During the pendency of the appeal, Mrs. Roberts died, and Johnson became her personal representative. HHE then produced the records, and the parties dismissed the appeal by consent. Several months after obtaining the records, in August 2010, Johnson filed a notice of intent (NOI) for a wrongful death and survival action against HHE. In October 2010, following an impasse at pre-suit mediation, Johnson filed her complaint. In November 2010, HHE filed its answer and asserted arbitration as one of several defenses, but did not move to compel arbitration at that time. Instead, HHE filed arbitration-related discovery requests on Johnson. Johnson asks this Court to review the court of appeals' decision to reverse the circuit court's finding that Heritage Healthcare of Estill (HHE) waived its right to arbitrate the claims between it and Johnson. Finding that HHE indeed waived its right to arbitrate the claims, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals. View "Johnson v. Heritage Healthcare" on Justia Law

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Believing the purchase of orthopaedic prosthetic devices and other implants were eligible for a sales tax exemption, CareAlliance Health Services (the Hospital) sought a refund from South Carolina Department of Revenue (DOR). Following an audit, DOR denied the request as to orthopaedic prosthetic devices on the grounds they did not require a prescription to be sold and a prescription was not used in the purchase of the devices. The DOR also held other bone, muscle, and tissue implants were not exempt because they did not replace a missing part of the body, as required for the exemption. The Hospital filed for a contested case hearing. After discovery, both parties filed motions for summary judgment. Following a hearing on the motions, the ALC granted summary judgment in favor of the Hospital, finding orthopaedic prosthetic devices qualified for the exemption and other bone, muscle, and tissue implants replaced a missing part of the body. The DOR appealed, arguing the ALC erred in finding a prescription was required for the sale of an orthopaedic device between the Hospital and vendor because of federal regulations. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed: "The ALC's broad interpretation of the federal regulation is fundamentally at odds with the plain reading of the regulation and the strict construction afforded a tax exemption." Further, the Court reversed the ALC's finding that other bone, muscle and tissue implants replace a missing body part because it was not supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Court reversed the ALC and found the Hospital was not entitled to a tax exemption. View "CareAlliance Health Services v. SCDOR" on Justia Law

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"At its most basic level, this case presents a policy dispute: whose policy choice concerning health insurance premiums for State employees controls—the General Assembly's or the Budget and Control Board's?" The issue before the Supreme Court centered on "maintaining and enforcing the constitutional and statutory framework through which such issues must be resolved. " Upon review of the arguments of the parties and the applicable case law, the Supreme Court found that the General Assembly had and exercised the power to determine the contribution rates of enrollees for the State's health insurance plan in 2013. The Court held that the Budget and Control Board violated the separation of powers provision by substituting its own policy for that of the General Assembly, entered judgment for the petitioners, and directed the Board to use the appropriated funds for premium increases and return the premium increases previously collected from enrollees. View "Hampton v. Haley" on Justia Law

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Vernon Sulton was rendered paraplegic by gunshot wounds he received as a bystander at an armed robbery. After initial treatment at Richland Memorial Hospital, he was transferred to the HealthSouth Rehab Hospital in Columbia. He was admitted with a sacral stage two pressure ulcer. In the eleven days Sulton remained at HealthSouth, the pressure ulcer progressed from stage two to stage four. Sulton underwent a colostomy and surgery that included a skin graft, and the pressure ulcer eventually fully healed. Sulton and his wife, Willie Mae Scott (Scott), sued HealthSouth and several of its nurses, alleging that Sulton had been injured by the defendants’ negligent provision of nursing care. Scott alleged a cause of action for loss of consortium. Sulton died of unrelated causes prior to trial. In the survival action, a jury found against all defendants and awarded $306,693.25 in economic damages but no non-economic damages. In the loss of consortium action, the jury found HealthSouth alone liable to Scott for four million dollars in non-economic damages. The jury also found that HealthSouth had been willful, wanton, or reckless. In the punitive damages phase of the bifurcated proceedings, the jury awarded eight million dollars in punitive damages. HealthSouth moved for JNOV, new trial absolute, and new trial nisi remittitur. These motions were denied. HealthSouth and the individual named nurse defendants challenged the jury’s verdict in a negligence and loss of consortium action. Because the trial court improperly instructed the jury that Appellants owed Respondents a heightened duty of care, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial on all issues as to all Appellants. View "Sulton v. HealthSouth" on Justia Law