Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

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A representative of Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., d/b/a Havencrest Nursing Center (Extendicare), executed an arbitration agreement with Anna Marie Taylor (“Decedent”) requiring the arbitration of claims arising from Decedent’s stay at the Extendicare facility. Following Decedent’s death, Daniel and William Taylor (“the Taylors”) brought wrongful death claims on behalf of themselves as wrongful death beneficiaries and survival claims on behalf of Decedent’s estate against Extendicare and two other defendants. Extendicare moved to bifurcate the wrongful death and survival actions, and to compel arbitration of Decedent’s survival claim pursuant to the arbitration agreement and the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The trial court relied upon Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 213(e) to deny Extendicare’s motion to bifurcate, and the Superior Court affirmed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review to determine whether the FAA preempted the lower courts’ application of Rule 213(e) under the facts presented. Upon review, the Court concluded that the FAA preempted the application of Rule 213(e), and required arbitration of the survival claim against Extendicare. The Court therefore reversed the Superior Court, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal centered on the availability of attorneys’ fee awards against insurance companies that have invoked the peer-review provisions of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL). In 2004, Angela LaSelva sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident. She was treated by a licensed chiropractor, David Novatnak, D.C., who practiced with appellee Doctor’s Choice Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Center, P.C. (“Provider”). Provider submitted invoices for the services directly to LaSelva’s first-party benefits insurance carrier, Appellant Travelers Personal Insurance Company (“Insurer”), as required per the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law. Insurer later requested peer review through IMX Medical Management Services (“IMX”), a peer review organization (“PRO”). IMX, in turn, enlisted Mark Cavallo, D.C., to conduct the peer review. Dr. Cavallo issued a report deeming certain of the treatments provided by Dr. Novatnak to have been unnecessary. Based on this report, Insurer denied reimbursement for the treatment aspects deemed as excessive. Provider opposed this withholding and commenced a civil action against Insurer. Among other things, the complaint alleged that all treatments undertaken through Provider were reasonable and necessary and that the review conducted by IMX did not comport with the mandates of Section 1797 of the MVFRL. Furthermore, Provider asserted that IMX failed to comply with requirements of the Pennsylvania Code directing PROs to apply national or regional norms in their determinations or, where such norms do not exist, to establish written criteria to be used in conducting reviews. As relevant here, the complaint included a specific demand for attorneys’ fees. After a bench trial, the common pleas court entered a verdict in the Provider’s favor, encompassing an award of attorneys’ fees of approximately $39,000. On appeal, the Superior Court reversed the decision to strike the fee award. The Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court: "the Superior Court’s cryptic pronouncement of 'absurdity' [regarding fee-shifting] that lacks foundation. . . . This Court remains cognizant of the shortcomings of the peer-review regime. We have no reasonable means, however, of assessing the degree to which these may be offset by the benefits of cost containment and potentially lower insurance premiums available to the public at large. Rather, the Legislature is invested with the implements to conduct investigations, hearings, and open deliberations to address such salient policy matters. In such landscape, we decline to deviate from conventional statutory interpretation to advance directed policy aims." View "Doctor's Choice v. Traveler's Personal Ins." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review centered on review of a Commonwealth Court order Court interpreting a provision of a consent decree, negotiated by the Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania ("OAG") and approved by the Commonwealth Court, between Appellant UPMC, a nonprofit health care corporation, and Appellee Highmark, a nonprofit medical insurance corporation, which established the obligations of both parties with respect to certain health care plans serving vulnerable populations. Specifically, the Court considered whether the Commonwealth Court erroneously interpreted this "vulnerable populations" provision as creating a contractual obligation for UPMC to treat all participants in Highmark’s "Medicare Advantage Plans" (for which Highmark and UPMC currently have provider contracts which UPMC has indicated it will terminate) as "in-network" for purposes of determining the rates it is permitted to charge these individuals for physician, hospital, and other medical services during the duration of the consent decree. After careful review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court’s finding that the "vulnerable populations" clause of the consent decree required UPMC to "be in a contract" with Highmark for the duration of the consent decree, and, thus, that UPMC physicians, hospitals, and other services shall be treated as "in-network" for participants in Highmark Medicare Advantage plans which were subject to provider contracts between Highmark and UPMC set to be terminated by UPMC on December 31, 2015. The Court also affirmed the portion of the Commonwealth Court’s order requiring judicial approval for any further changes in business relationships between these parties which were governed by the consent decree, but quashed as not yet ripe for review the portion of the order which directed the OAG to file a request for supplemental relief to effectuate compliance with the consent decree. View "Pennsylvania v. UPMC" on Justia Law