Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

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Mo. Rev. Stat. Section 191.227.1 permits health care providers to charge patients who request their medical records a "search" fee when there are no responsive medical records to be found. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action and dismissed movants' appeal of the denial of their motion to intervene as moot. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that CIOX's practice of charging a fee for unsuccessful records searches violated the Missouri statute. View "Graham v. CIOX Health, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiffs' medical malpractice claims, holding that Plaintiffs failed to set forth specific facts showing a prima facie case of causation and lost chance of survival. Sharon Susie lost her right arm and eight of her toes due to a disorder known as necrotizing fasciitis. Sharon and her husband (together, Plaintiffs) filed a negligence claim against Defendants seeking damages for the amputation of Sharon's arm and other injuries. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants were negligent because Sharon's condition was not properly diagnosed and treatment was not timely commenced and that Defendants' actions resulted in the lost chance to save Sharon's arm and toes from amputation. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly granted because Plaintiffs failed to set forth specific facts showing a prima facie case of causation and lost chance of survival. View "Susie v. Family Health Care of Siouxland, P.L.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court enjoining the application of Arizona statutes authorizing the recording of liens against third-party tortfeasors to allow hospitals to recover health care costs for Medicaid patients beyond the amounts provided by Medicaid, holding that the statues are preempted to the extent hospitals utilize them against third-party tortfeasors for "balance billing" to recover costs beyond Medicaid reimbursement. Plaintiffs were patients who were treated at defendant hospitals under the state's contract provider for the federal Medicaid program, which negotiates reimbursement rates with hospitals. Defendants recorded liens against the third-party tortfeasors who caused the patients' injuries in order to recover the remainder of their fees exceeding Medicaid reimbursement. Plaintiff brought this class action challenging the liens, arguing that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 33-931(A) and 36-2903.01(G)(4) (the lien statutes) were preempted by federal Medicaid law. The trial court enjoined application of the lien statutes. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs had a private right of action to challenge the lien statutes; and (2) the lien statutes are unconstitutional as applied. View "Ansley v. Banner Health Network" on Justia Law

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Dolin was prescribed Paxil, the brand-name version of the drug paroxetine, to treat his depression. The prescription was filled with a generic paroxetine product. Six days later, Dolin died by suicide. Federal law preempted an "inadequate labeling" state-law claim against the generic manufacturer. Mrs. Dolin sued GSK, the manufacturer of brand-name Paxil, arguing that GSK was responsible for the labeling for all paroxetine, no matter who made and sold it, and had negligently omitted an adult suicide risk. The Seventh Circuit reversed her jury verdict, based on preemption, citing the complex regulation of drug labels and of Paxil/paroxetine’s label in particular. GSK had attempted to change the Paxil label in 2007 to add an adult suicide warning. The FDA rejected that change. The court concluded that GSK lacked new information after 2007 that would have allowed it to add an adult-suicidality warning under the existing regulations. Eight days after denying Dolin certiorari, the Supreme Court decided another case, further explaining the “clear evidence” standard for impossibility preemption for prescription drug labels. Dolin filed an unsuccessful motion under FRCP 60(b)(6), arguing that the 2018 judgment should be set aside based on a change in law so that GSK could not establish its defense of impossibility preemption. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and did not impose sanctions. The Supreme Court provided important guidance but did not break new ground that would change the result in Dolin’s case. Her motion was not frivolous. View "Dolin v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2011, K.G., age 48, received an influenza vaccination in advance of knee replacement surgery. Over the next several months, she experienced increasingly severe nerve pain in her hands, arms, feet, and legs; she succumbed to alcoholism, spent months in the hospital, and developed amnesia. In 2014, an Iowa state court declared K.G. incapable of caring for herself and, against K.G.’s will, appointed K.G.’s sister as her guardian. K.G. regained her mental faculties by May 2016. She then retained an attorney who filed her claim under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, 42 U.S.C. 300aa-1. A Special Master held that equitable tolling was not available during the period that K.G.’s sister acted as K.G.’s guardian and dismissed K.G.’s claim as not timely filed within the three-year statute of limitations. The Federal Circuit vacated. Equitable tolling is available in Vaccine Act cases and the appointment of a legal guardian is only one factor a court should consider when deciding whether equitable tolling is appropriate in a particular case. K.G. was not required to argue the legally irrelevant question of whether she personally was diligent while she was mentally competent and she preserved her argument that her legal representative exercised reasonable diligence under the circumstances. The Special Master erred in adopting a per se rule. View "K.G. v. Secretary of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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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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Care Alternatives provides hospice care to New Jersey patients, employing “interdisciplinary teams” of registered nurses, chaplains, social workers, home health aides, and therapists working alongside independent physicians who serve as hospice medical directors. Former Alternatives employees filed suit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733 alleging that Alternatives admitted patients who were ineligible for hospice care and directed its employees to improperly alter those patients’ Medicare certifications to reflect eligibility. They retained an expert, who opined in his report that, based on the records of the 47 patients he examined, the patients were inappropriately certified for hospice care 35 percent of the time. Alternatives’ expert testified that a reasonable physician would have found all of those patients hospice-eligible. The district court determined that a mere difference of opinion between experts regarding the accuracy of the prognosis was insufficient to create a triable dispute of fact as to the element of falsity and required that the plaintiffs provide evidence of an objective falsehood. Upon finding they had not adduced such evidence, the court granted Alternatives summary judgment. The Third Circuit vacated, rejecting the objective falsehood requirement for FCA falsity. The plaintiffs’ expert testimony created a genuine dispute of material fact as to falsity. View "Druding v. Care Alternatives" on Justia Law

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When the Sieferts’ child started experiencing suicidal thoughts, they took the teenager to Children’s Hospital near Cincinnati. After about a week, the Sieferts’ insurance company determined that Minor Siefert had no medical problems and denied further coverage. The Sieferts decided to bring their child home but the doctors and social workers resisted. For four weeks, the Sieferts wrangled with the hospital and county about getting their child back. Only after the Sieferts signed a voluntary safety plan did the child leave the facility. The Sieferts sued the county, its employees, the hospital, and its doctors, alleging substantive and procedural due process violations. The district court dismissed the hospital and county defendants. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. The Sieferts adequately pled procedural due process violations “[e]ven a temporary deprivation of physical custody requires a hearing within a reasonable time.” The issue of their consent was not appropriate for summary judgment. The hospital may be considered a state actor in these circumstances. Children’s and Hamilton County worked together, collaborating and communicating about Minor Siefert’s situation. Rejecting substantive due process claims, the court stated that the defendants’ opting to err on the side of protecting the child at the expense of depriving the parents of their parental rights for a month is not conduct that shocks the conscience. The Sieferts’ claims against the county entities must fail under “Monell.” View "Siefert v. Hamilton County" on Justia Law

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The Hospital petitioned for review of an administrative decision affirming the Secretary's citation for violating the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) by inadequately protecting its employees from the recognized hazard of patient aggression toward staff. The DC Circuit held that, to the extent that they were preserved, the Hospital's objections failed to overcome the court's deference for the agency. In this case, substantial evidence supported the IJ's conclusion that the Hospital's incomplete and inconsistently implemented safety protocols were inadequate to materially reduce the hazard posed by patient-on-staff violence. Furthermore, the ALJ's determination that a more comprehensively considered and applied program would materially reduce the hazard was fully warranted by her legal analysis and evidentiary findings. Finally, the court held that the General Duty Clause provided fair notice in this case. Accordingly, the court dismissed in part and denied in part the petition for review. View "BHC Northwest Psychiatric Hospital, LLC v. Secretary of Labor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the qualified protective order entered by the trial court in this case, holding that Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(f) is unconstitutional as enacted to the limited extent that it divests trial courts of their inherent discretion over discovery and that the statute can be elided to make it permissive and not mandatory upon trial courts. Plaintiff filed this healthcare liability wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the decedent alleging that Defendant's negligent treatment of the decedent resulted in the decedent's death. During discovery, Defendants filed a motion for a qualified protective order pursuant to section 29-26-121(f), which allows defense counsel to conduct ex parte interviews with patients' non-party treating healthcare providers in a healthcare liability lawsuit. In response, Plaintiff argued that the statute is unconstitutional because it deprives the trial court of its inherent authority over court proceedings. The trial court entered a written qualified protective order allowing the interviews. The Supreme Court vacated the qualified protective order, holding (1) section 29-26-121(f) impermissibly intrudes on the authority of the judiciary over procedural matters; and (2) the unconstitutional portion of the statute may be elided, and the statute as elided is constitutional. View "Willeford v. Klepper" on Justia Law