Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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A hospital’s compliance with the Medical Records Act (Act), W. Va. Code 57-5-4a to -4j, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when responding to a subpoena for a patient’s records does not preclude an action based on the wrongful disclosure of confidential information in violation of W. Va. Code 27-3-1. The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint against Defendant-hospital alleging that the hospital wrongfully disclosed her confidential mental health treatment records in a federal court proceeding. The circuit court concluded that Plaintiff could not rely on the protections of section 27-3-1 in bringing this action because Defendant properly complied with the Act and HIPAA regulations in responding to a subpoena for Plaintiff’s medical records and Plaintiff never objected to the subpoena. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that hospitals responding to subpoenas pursuant to the Act must comply with section 27-3-1, and “confidential information” as defined by section 27-3-1(a) is not subject to disclosure under the Act unless an exception applies. View "Barber v. Camden Clark Memorial Hospital Corp." on Justia Law

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A durable power of attorney (DPOA) provided an adult daughter with the authority to enter into an arbitration agreement with a nursing home on her mother’s behalf. Lena Nelson executed a DPOA that named her son as her attorney-in-fact. The DPOA stated that if her son could not serve as such, Nelson’s daughter, Kimberly Shanklin, should be Nelson’s attorney-in-fact. Nelson was later transferred to Hillcrest Nursing Home. Shanklin signed all of the admission documents, including an arbitration agreement. Approximately one month after leaving the nursing home, Nelson died. Shanklin, on behalf of her mother’s estate, filed this suit against Hillcrest. Hillcrest, in response, filed a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. Shanklin argued that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because she did not have the actual authority to enter into the agreement on Nelson’s behalf because she was the “alternate” DPOA. The circuit court agreed and denied the motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Shanklin had the authority to enter into the arbitration agreement with Hillcrest; and (2) under the plain language of W.Va. Code 39B-1-119(c), Hillcrest was permitted to rely on Shanklin’s authority as Nelson’s DPOA when Shanklin signed the arbitration agreement on Nelson’s behalf. View "AMFM, LLC v. Shanklin" on Justia Law

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Respondent hired a law firm to investigate a potential malpractice claim against a nursing home. The law firm made a request to the hospital owned by Petitioner for a copy of Respondent’s medical records. Petitioners sent an invoice to the law firm demanding $4,463.43 plus sales tax and shipping costs for the medical records. The law firm paid the invoice. Troubled by the allegedly excessive amount of the invoice, however, the law firm filed suit against Petitioners in the name of the client. The circuit court found that Respondent could pursue a claim for the allegedly excessive costs of the medical records. The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition to Petitioners and directed the circuit court to dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice, holding that because Respondent did not pay the invoice and suffered no personal loss caused by the allegedly illegal fee, Respondent could not show an injury in fact. Therefore, Respondent did not have standing to pursue the lawsuit. View "State ex rel. Healthport Technologies, LLC v. Honorable James C. Stucky" on Justia Law

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Domestic Violence Survivors’ Support Group, Inc. (DVCC), a non-profit corporation that provides counseling services to victims of domestic violence, applied for a behavioral health center license. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification (OHFLAC) denied the application for licensure on the ground that DVCC does not employ a licensed counselor. The circuit court affirmed the administrative decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that OHFLAC’s interpretation of its administrative rule as requiring all professional counselors to be professionally licensed was contrary to the statutory and regulatory schemes. Remanded. View "Domestic Violence Survivors' Support Group, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources" on Justia Law

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After a hearing, the mental hygiene commissioner found probable cause to believe that Petitioner was mentally ill and a danger to self or to others due to mental illness. The commissioner directed Petitioner’s commitment for examination at a local mental health facility. Petitioner was subsequently involuntarily committed to Highland Hospital for evaluation. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that her mental health commitment was unlawful. The circuit court denied Petitioner a writ of habeas corpus on the basis that her cause was mooted by her release from her involuntary hospitalization. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that this habeas matter is moot. View "In re Involuntary Hospitalization of T.O." on Justia Law

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On June 11, 2013, Louk, then 37 weeks pregnant, injected methamphetamine into her arm. A few hours later,. Louk experienced breathing problems and went to Summersville Hospital. Dr. Lester treated Louk and testified that Louk presented to the emergency room with acute respiratory distress which was caused by her methamphetamine use. Due to concerns about the fetus being deprived of oxygen, Dr. Rostocki performed an emergency Cesarean section and delivered the child, Olivia Louk, who was born “essentially brain dead.” Olivia “had no movement, no spontaneous respirations, and they had to immediately put her on a ventilator to help her breathe.” Olivia died 11 days after she was born. Louk was convicted of child neglect resulting in death, W.Va. Code 61-8D-4a [1997], and sentenced to three to fifteen years of incarceration. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed. The child neglect resulting in death statute is not intended to criminalize a mother’s prenatal act that results in harm to her subsequently born child. Recognizing “that there may be significant policy implications and social ramifications surrounding the present issue,” the court confined its review to the plain language of the statute. View "West Virginia v. Louk" on Justia Law

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Stephanie Mills had a thyroidectomy, performed by Dr. Ghaphery at Wheeling Hospital. Mills’s nerves surrounding her thyroid gland were severed during the thyroidectomy, resulting in bilateral vocal cord paralysis. Mills filed suit against Dr. Ghaphery, A.D. Ghaphery Professional Association, and Wheeling Hospital, Inc. (collectively, Wheeling Hospital), alleging medical negligence, lack of informed consent, and negligent credentialing. Mills sought discovery of certain documents from Wheeling Hospital. When the Hospital failed to respond to the discovery requests, Mills filed a motion to compel. The circuit court ordered the majority of the disputed documents to be disclosed. Wheeling Hospital sought a writ of prohibition to preclude enforcement of the circuit court’s order, asserting that the disputed documents were protected by the statutory peer review privilege. The Supreme Court granted as moulded the requested writ, holding (1) certain of the challenged documents, including those comprising Dr. Ghaphery’s request to renew his staff privilege, are specifically protected by the peer review privilege; and (2) the circuit court did not conduct a thorough in camera review of the remaining challenged documents, and Wheeling Hospital did not provide a sufficiently detailed privilege log to permit the circuit court to determine whether such documents are protected by the peer review privilege. View "State ex rel. Wheeling Hosp., Inc. v. Hon. Wilson" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a circuit court order directing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (DHHR) to restore access without limitation to patient and patient records to patient advocates working at Sharpe and Bateman Hospitals, the State’s two psychiatric hospitals. The DHHR appealed, arguing that the circuit court order violated both the patients’ constitutional rights to privacy and the Federal Health Insurance Portability and accountability Act (HIPAA). The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision to restore the access afforded to the patient advocates to the level they experienced prior to June 2014, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that the DHRR’s revocation of patient advocate access to patients, staff, and patient records absent express consent did not violate state law. View "W. Va. Dep’t of Health & Human Res. v. E.H." on Justia Law