Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order and judgment of the circuit court in this case concerning whether local health officers may lawfully issue public health orders, holding that local health officers have statutory authority to issue orders and that no state law preempted the local health ordinance in question.At issue was Dane County Ordinance 46.40 regarding the prevention, suppression, and control of communicable diseases. Plaintiffs bought this action against the County and the Health Department and its director challenging their authority to issue and enforce such orders. The circuit court granted summary judgment against Plaintiffs' claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Wis. Stat. 252.03 grants local health officers the authority to issue public health orders; (2) the ordinance at issue, which makes such orders enforceable by civil citations, was not preempted by state law; and (3) a local health officer's authority to issue enforceable public health orders pursuant to section section 252.03 and ordinance 46.40 does not run afoul of constitutional separation of powers principles. View "Becker v. Dane County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing as moot S.A.M.'s appeal of the order extending his voluntary commitment (recommitment) and affirmed the recommitment order, holding that the appeal of the expired recommitment order was not moot and that S.A.M.'s due process and insufficiency of the evidence claims were without merit.Sauk County successfully petitioned to have S.A.M. involuntary committed to its care for compelled treatment. Before the initial commitment order expired, the County petitioned to extend S.A.M.'s commitment. After a trial, the circuit court found grounds for a recommitment order. S.A.M. appealed, but the court of appeals dismissed the appeal because the recommitment order expired before the court could decide the merits of the appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) two collateral consequences raised here rendered the appeal of the expired recommitment order not moot; but (2) on the merits, S.A.M.'s arguments were unavailing. View "Sauk County v. S.A.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the public records law's general prohibition on pre-release judicial review of decisions to provide access to public records barred the claims brought by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and two other trade associations (WMC) seeking to stop the release of certain records.After the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made public records requests to the Department of Health Services (DHS) for documents related to the COVID-19 pandemic WMC learned that DHS planned to respond by releasing a list of all Wisconsin businesses with more than twenty-five employees that have had at least two employees test positive for COVID-19 or that have had close case contacts. WMC brought this action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the release. The circuit court granted a temporary injunction. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that WMC's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because its claim was barred by Wis. Stat. 19.356(1). View "Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce v. Evers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying the motion to dismiss this complaint brought by Colectivo Coffee Roasters against Society Insurance, holding that the district court erred.Collective, which experienced substantial monetary losses as a result of the COVID-10 pandemic and related government restrictions on in-person dining, brought this class action complaint against Society seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and damages for breach of contract, alleging that Society was required to compensate it for the business income it lost during the pandemic. Society filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that none of the policy's coverage provisions applied. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Colectivo failed to state a claim for coverage under the Society policy's business income, extra expense, civil authority, or contamination provisions. View "Colectivo Coffee Roasters, Inc. v. Society Insurance" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part the decision of the court of appeals automatically staying the circuit court's order of commitment for treatment with the involuntary administration of medication after finding Defendant incompetent, holding that the automatic stay of involuntary medication orders pending appeal established in State v. Scott, 914 N.W.2d (Wis. 2018), does not apply to pretrial proceedings.Defendant was charged with first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon. The circuit court found Defendant incompetent and ordered him to be involuntary medicated. Defendant appealed and filed an emergency motion for stay of the involuntary medication order pending appeal. The circuit court automatically granted the motion pursuant to Scott. The court of appeals reversed the involuntary medication order and the order lifting the automatic stay of involuntary medication. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, holding (1) the automatic stay created in Scott shall not be applied during pretrial proceedings; and (2) Wis. Stat. 971.14(5)(a)1. is not subject to tolling in a pretrial context. View "State v. Green" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this petition for review of a decision of the court of appeals affirming a circuit court order that certified a class and appointed Timothy Rave as class representative, holding that this case was moot.In the underlying action, Rave alleged that SVA Healthcare Services, LLC (SVA), a medical records vendor, improperly charged him and others similarly situated a fee for copies of medical records that exceeded the fee restrictions set forth in Wis. Stat. 146.83(3f)(b). At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the circuit court erred in granting Rave's motion for class certification. In Townsend v. ChartSwap, LL, 967 N.W.2d 21 (Wis. 2021), the Supreme Court held that fee restrictions in section 146.83(3f)(b) apply only to "health care providers" as that term is defined in Wis. Stat. 146.81(1). Following the issuance of Townsend, Rave filed a motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court granted the motion, holding that Townsend rendered this matter moot because no evidence showed that SVA met the definition of a health care provider in section 146.81(1). View "Rave v. SVA Healthcare Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's dismissal of Plaintiff's claim against Defendant for unlawfully overcharging her for copies of her medical records, in violation of fee restrictions set forth in Wis. Stat. 146.83(3f), holding that the circuit court erred.On appeal, Defendant argued that the statutory fee restrictions did not apply to it because it was not a healthcare provider, as statutory defined, and because principles of agency law did not impose personal liability on it for the fees at issue. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding (1) Defendant was not a healthcare provider under a plain meaning interpretation of Wis. Stat. 146.81(1) and was therefore not subject to the fee restrictions in section 146.83(3f)(b); and (2) neither common law principles nor Wis. Stat. 990.001(9) set forth that an agent is personally liable for charging more for healthcare records than statutory permitted by its principal. View "Townsend v. ChartSwap, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the portions of the emergency order issued by Janel Heinrich, in her capacity as a local health officer of Public Health of Madison and Dane County, restricting or prohibiting in-person instruction in all schools in Dane County for grades 3-12, holding that those portions were unlawful and unenforceable and are hereby vacated.The disputed order was issued in an effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Petitioners - students - brought three cases challenging Heinrich's authority to issue the emergency order, contending that the order exceeded her statutory authority under Minn. Stat. 252.03, violated Petitioners' fundamental right to the free exercise of religioun under Wis. Const. art. I, 18, and violated parents' fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children under Wis. Const. art. I, 1. The Supreme Court consolidated the cases and held (1) local health officers do not have the statutory power to close schools under section 252.03; and (2) the order infringed Petitioners' fundamental right to the free exercise of religion guaranteed in the Wisconsin Constitution. View "St. Ambrose Academy, Inc. v. Parisi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court denying The Mix Up's motion for temporary injunctive relief challenging Emergency Order 3 issued by the Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee, Andrea Palm, holding that the order met the definition of a rule and should have been promulgated according to statutory rulemaking procedures.Emergency Order 3 was issued as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited the size of indoor public gatherings. Plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit, alleging that the order was a rule and that DHS did not undertake proper rulemaking procedures. The circuit court granted Plaintiffs' motion for an ex parte temporary injunction. The Mix Up was granted intervention and moved for a temporary injunction. The circuit court vacated the ex part order denying The Mix Up's motion for temporary injunctive relief. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the order was invalid and unenforceable as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Emergency Order 3 met the definition of a rule, and therefore, the order should have been promulgated according to rule making procedures set forth in Wis. Stat. ch. 227; and (2) therefore, Emergency Order 3 was not validly enacted and was unenforceable. View "Tavern League of Wisconsin, Inc. v. Palm" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order extending K.E.K.'s involuntary commitment pursuant to Wis. Stat. 51.20(13)(g)3., holding that Wis. Stat. 51.20(1)(am), the statute upon which Waupaca County relied on to prove K.E.K.'s dangerous, is facially constitutional and that K.E.K.'s as-applied constitutional challenges failed.K.E.K. challenged the commitment extension on appeal, arguing that section 51.20(1)(am) was both facially unconstitutional and unconstitutional as applied because it does not require a sufficient showing of current dangerousness, as exhibited by recent acts of dangerousness. The court of appeals denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statute is facially constitutional and that K.E.K.'s as-applied constitutional challenges, which the Court noted were disguised sufficiency of the evidence challenges, also failed. View "Waupaca County v. K.E.K." on Justia Law