Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
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In May, 2015, Spencer Wolfe was being treated for high blood pressure and was prescribed two milligrams of hydralazine two times a day. Some time between May 20, 2015, and May 27, 2015, Wolfe had this prescription filled at Delta Discount Drugs. Delta, however, allegedly mis-filled Wolfe’s prescription with twenty-five milligram tablets of hydroxyzine, rather than the prescribed two milligram tablets of hydralazine. Less than a month later, on June 19, 2015, Wolfe was hospitalized after he had blacked out while driving. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review was whether a claim asserted against a pharmacy for allegedly mis-filling a prescription was subject to the two-year professional-malpractice statute of limitations in Mississippi Code Section 15-1-36 or the three-year catch-all statute of limitations in Mississippi Code Section 15-1-49. The Circuit Court ruled that Section 15-1-36 applied to Wolfe’s claims against Delta Discount Drugs and granted Delta’s motion to dismiss with prejudice because Wolfe’s claims were filed beyond the two-year statute of limitations found in Section 15-1- 36. Aggrieved, Wolfe has timely appealed to this Court. After review, and finding no reversible error in that decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wolfe v. Delta Discount Drugs, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sixteen-year old Julisa Matute, along with her sister and father, were involved in a motor-vehicle accident in Harrison County, Mississippi. Julisa was transported to Mobile, Alabama, and was admitted to University of South Alabama Medical Center, a hospital operated by University of South Alabama (USA). Julisa died there intestate. Julisa’s mother and sister executed an authorization for the donation of Julisa’s organs with the Alabama Organ Center (AOC). An estate was opened; Julisa’s mother was appointed administratrix of the Estate. Shortly thereafter notice was served to creditors, USA probated a claim against the Estate for medical expenses. The Estate filed a “complaint to contest illegal probated claim and compulsory counterclaim,” alleging that before Julisa’s death, USA representatives approached Julisa’s family and asked that they donate her organs and, in turn, Julisa’s hospital bill incurred at USA would be “totally wiped out and not be collected.” As a result of this alleged agreement, the Estate contested USA’s probated claim and asserted that the “probated claim [wa]s null and void and uncollectable.” In a counterclaim, the Estate alleged emotional distress, fraud, and punitive damages because, according to the Estate, “[t]he hospital told [Julisa’s family] that the bill would be wiped clean for allowing them to have [Julisa’s] organs . . . .” A wrongful-death lawsuit related to the motor-vehicle accident was filed then by the Estate. A settlement was reached among the parties in September 2018. Months later, a hearing was held on USA’s contested probated claim. The chancellor entered a judgment approving the Estate’s Petition to Receive First and Final Accounting, Discharge Administratrix and Close Estate. USA filed a motion to alter or amend the order granting the Estate’s Petition to Approve Settlement of Claims of Wrongful Death Beneficiaries of Julisa, and asserted that the chancellor’s reference to a “hospital lien claim” was erroneous. The chancellor denied the motion. USA timely appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that while the chancellor properly denied USA's probated claim as uncollectable, the chancellor erred in finding the probated claim was invalid and erroneously ruled on USA's hospital-lien claim. As a result, the chancery court's judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Julisa Matute" on Justia Law

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Central Mississippi Medical Center (CMMC) appealed a Chancery Court decision denying its appeal of a Division of Medicaid (DOM) hearing. The DOM had determined that CMMC owed it $1.226 million due to overpayment. The Mississippi Supreme Court recently decided a reimbursement dispute involving the DOM, Crossgates River Oaks Hosp. v. Miss. Div. of Medicaid, 240 So. 3d 385 (Miss. 2018). In Crossgates, the hospitals prevailed because the DOM had failed to adhere to the Medicare State Plan Agreement. Applying the same legal principles to this case, the Supreme Court ruled the DOM prevailed because the DOM adhered to the Plan. The chancellor found sufficient evidence to support the DOM’s decision, decreed that it was neither arbitrary nor capricious, and decreed that it did not exceed the DOM’s authority or violate any of CMMC’s statutory or constitutional rights. View "Central Mississippi Medical Center v. Mississippi Division of Medicaid" on Justia Law

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Mary Thomas awoke, paralyzed, after surgery. She filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Adam Lewis, who performed the surgery, claiming her injuries stemmed from two neurosurgeries performed by Dr. Lewis. Thomas also filed suit against Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic and Central Mississippi Medical Center based on vicarious liability. Thomas’s medical malpractice claims were based on an alleged failure of Dr. Lewis to manage Thomas’s mean arterial blood pressure during the first surgery and Dr. Lewis’s decision to perform the second surgery. However, the issue on appeal involved the reliability of expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Thomas’s expert, neurosurgeon Dr. Neil Wright, claimed that Dr. Lewis had failed to provide the proper standard of care and, in turn, caused Thomas’s injuries. However, Dr. Lewis argued that Dr. Wright’s opinions were not reliable because they were inconsistent with medical literature. The trial court agreed, struck Dr. Wright’s opinions, and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Dr. Lewis with regard to the first surgery. The trial court also ruled that Dr. Wright could testify to negligence regarding the second surgery. The trial court allowed Thomas to proceed on claims related to the second surgery. Dr. Wright admitted that the decision to perform the second surgery was a judgment call and that he failed to testify that making the decision to proceed with a second surgery was a breach of the standard of care. The trial court considered the evidence and found that Mary Thomas had failed to offer admissible proof from which a reasonable juror could find that Dr. Lewis deviated from a professional standard of care. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of Dr. Lewis, Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, and Central Mississippi Medical Center, and Thomas appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Thomas v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Genesis Hospice LLC provided outpatient hospice care to Medicaid beneficiaries in the Mississippi Delta. Claims Genesis submitted outside the norm, prompting a Mississippi Division of Medicaid audit. A statistical sample of 75 of the 808 billed claims were reviewed, and of that 75, 68 claims were not substantiated by the patients’ records and thus not eligible for payment. The auditing physicians specifically found that the patient records for the 68 rejected claims lacked sufficient documentation to support the given terminal-illness diagnosis and/or lacked documentation of disease progression. Medicaid’s statistician extrapolated that 68 of 75 unsupported claims represented a total overpayment of $1,941,285 for the 808 claims Genesis billed during the relevant time period. And Medicaid demanded Genesis repay this amount. Medicaid’s decision has been affirmed in an administrative appeal before Medicaid and by the Hinds County Chancery Court, sitting as an appellate court. On further appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Genesis essentially argued Medicaid unfairly imposed documentation requirements not found in the federal or state Medicaid regulations. Genesis insisted the only requirement was a physician’s certification that in his or her subjective clinical judgment the patient was terminally ill, which Genesis provided. The Supreme Court found the regulations were clear: a physician’s certification of terminal illness is indeed required, but so is documentation that substantiates the physician’s certification. Because Genesis’ records failed to support 90 percent of its hospice claims, Medicaid had the administrative discretion to demand these unsupported claims be repaid. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Genesis Hospice Care, LLC v. Mississippi Division of Medicaid" on Justia Law

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Edward and Pattie Hyde brought a medical-negligence case based on loss of chance. Their theory was that the treating physician’s and hospital’s failure to properly test for and timely diagnose Edward’s stroke resulted in his not receiving treatment, namely, an injection of Tissue Plasminogen Activator, (tPA) which they claimed would have led to a better stroke recovery. The trial court dismissed the claim, and the Hydes appealed, asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to abandon long-standing precedent on loss-of-chance. They argued under Mississippi law, they could recover for the "reduced likelihood of a recovery." The Supreme Court was clear “that Mississippi law does not permit recovery of damages because of mere diminishment of the ‘chance of recovery.’” However, the trial court erred in dismissing the Hydes' claim on summary judgment: the Hydes presented expert medical testimony that the majority of stroke patients who timely receive tPA experience substantial improvement. Because their expert supported his opinion with medical literature, the trial judge abused his discretion by excluding this testimony. The Hydes’ expert testimony created a material fact dispute over whether they could recover for loss-of-chance. The Court therefore reversed summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hyde v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Mary Mac Atkinson alleged she was injured after slipping on a liquid substance at Clinton Healthcare. After the parties conducted significant amounts of discovery, Atkinson moved for a spoliation determination, requesting a spoliation jury instruction regarding a missing video, and moved for partial summary judgment as to liability. Clinton Healthcare moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion for spoliation, granted Atkinson’s motion for partial summary judgment, and denied Clinton Healthcare’s motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined genuine issues of material fact remained, and the trial court erred by granting Atkinson’s motion for partial summary judgment, but correctly denied Clinton Healthcare’s motion for summary judgment. Additionally, the Supreme Court found the trial court’s order regarding spoliation and the entitlement to a spoliation jury instruction was premature. Therefore, the trial court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, the spoliation order was vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Clinton Healthcare, LLC v. Atkinson" on Justia Law

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Fresenius Medical Care Holdings, Inc., and Fresenius USA, Inc., operated dialysis treatment clinics throughout the United States, including Mississippi. Fresenius also manufactured and sold dialysis products, including GranuFlo, a product administered to patients being treated for end-stage renal disease. GranuFlo was an acid concentrate mixed with bicarbonate and water to create a dialysis fluid. In 2014, the State of Mississippi brought a civil action against Fresenius, alleging that it had engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in connection with GranuFlo in violation of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act. At issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this appeal were a batch of discovery disputes arising between the State and Fresenius brought on interlocutory appeal. The State filed a motion to compel discovery against Fresenius and requested a privilege log. Fresenius provided the State with a privilege log similar to the logs produced in other GranuFlo litigation pending elsewhere. Although the State had objected, Fresenius did not log each individual email and email attachment; rather, Fresenius logged “families” or aggregates of documents. The chancery court granted the State’s motion to compel and ordered Fresenius to produce a “full and complete privilege log” to the State. Fresenius produced a second amended privilege log to the State, continuing to use the family logging method. The State filed a second motion to compel, seeking: (1) all emails and email attachments not separately identified on Fresenius’s July 1, 2016, privilege log; (2) withheld documents referred to as attorney notifications (nurses’ memoranda sent to doctors and in-house counsel); and (3) withheld documents referred to as public comment advice (public relations documents). The chancery court ordered Fresenius to produce all emails and email attachments that were responsive to the State’s discovery requests, that had not been produced, and that had not been separately identified on Fresenius’s July 1, 2016, privilege log. The chancery court also ordered Fresenius to submit attorney notifications and public relations documents for in camera review, later ordering production of the notifications. Fresenius appealed these orders. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court's order with respect to the public relations documents; the Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Fresenius Medical Care Holdings, Inc. v. Hood" on Justia Law

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Patsy Wood, administratix of Patricia Peoples’s estate and a wrongful death beneficiary, as well as Sandra Kay Madison and Samuel Peoples, Peoples’s other children and wrongful death beneficiaries, sued Lakeland Nursing and its employees, primarily the nurses involved in caring for Peoples, for negligence. Lakeland Nursing and Nurses Brittany Spann, Mary McGowan, Patricia Rhodes, and Barbara Scott (collectively “the Nurses”) filed motions to dismiss, arguing that Wood did not comply with the presuit notice requirements provided in Mississippi Code Section 15-1-36(15) (Rev. 2012). Peoples, a resident at Lakeland Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC, fell on September 12, 2011, and died from her injuries. Her children sued Lakeland Nursing and the Nurses for negligence. The issue this interlocutory appeal presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether Patsy Wood gave proper presuit notice to the Nurses pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 15-1-36(15), such that the circuit court correctly denied the Nurses’ motions to dismiss. Finding that Wood failed to do so, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the Nurses’ motion to dismiss, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Spann v. Wood" on Justia Law

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While recovering from surgery at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, eighty-nine-year-old Lautain Scruggs fell after getting out of her hospital bed. Scruggs suffered a serious head injury that required almost immediate surgery. Several years later, Scruggs died; her death was unrelated to the head injury. Scruggs’s daughters Julia Cavalier and Jannette Scruggs McDonald and her estate (collectively Cavalier) filed a complaint against Memorial Hospital for medical negligence. Pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, the trial court conducted a bench trial, with the evidence essentially being a battle-of -the-experts on the appropriate standard of care as it related to Memorial Hospital’s fall-risk assessment tool. Ultimately, the trial court found in favor of Memorial Hospital, and Cavalier filed a motion for a new trial. The trial court denied Cavalier’s motion for a new trial, so Cavalier filed this appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Cavalier v. Memorial Hospital at Gulfport" on Justia Law