Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Vermont Human Rights Commission, on behalf of plaintiff Latonia Congress, appealed a trial court’s decision granting summary judgment to defendant Centurion of Vermont LLC on the Commission’s claims of discrimination under the Vermont Public Accommodations Act (VPAA). Congress was incarcerated at a prison owned and operated by the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC). The DOC contracted with Centurion to provide all medical services for inmates at the prison. Under the previous provider, Congress was seen by an audiologist, who determined that she had substantial bilateral hearing loss, and she was given hearing aids for both ears. In December 2016, Congress reported that the hearing aids were not working, and Centurion planned to send them “to Audiology for check of functioning.” Later in December 2016, a doctor examined Congress’s ears and did not find any indication of an obstruction or other problem that might be affecting her hearing. Congress delivered her hearing aids to the medical unit to be sent out for testing. They were returned to her without having been tested. The record established that no one knew what happened to the hearing aids during that time; they were apparently misplaced. Through 2017 and early 2018, Congress attempted numerous times to obtain functioning hearing aids. Because Congress was deemed “functional” for some period of time despite her reported difficulty in hearing conversations, she was not eligible for hearing aids under Centurion’s policies. Eventually, in March 2018, an audiologist concluded Congress had moderate to severe bilateral hearing loss, which was worse in one ear, and recommended hearing aids. She was provided with one hearing aid in April 2018, which improved her hearing in that ear. Congress was released from prison in October 2019. In March 2020, the Commission filed a complaint against Centurion, the DOC, and other state defendants, alleging, as relevant here, that they discriminated against Congress in violation of the VPAA by failing to provide her with functioning hearing aids and thereby denying her equal access to certain benefits and services offered at the prison. Finding no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment in favor of Centurion, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Human Rights Commission v. Vermont, et al." on Justia Law

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In these two different qui tam cases in which the United States executed a settlement agreement with AthenaHealth, Inc. and multiple relators, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Relators' denial of their claims for attorneys' fees, holding that the district court did not err.Relators Cheryl Lovell and William McKusick appealed from the district court's denial of their entire claim for attorneys' fees under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., and relator Georgie Sandborn appealed from the omission of certain claimed fees from his attorneys' fees award. The First Circuit (1) affirmed as to Lovell and McKusick, holding that these relators did not receive a relator's share and so were not entitled to attorneys' fees; and (2) affirmed as to Sanborn, thus rejecting his argument that he may be allowed fees associated with his claim, in which the government did not intervene. View "United States, ex rel. Lovell v. AthenaHealth, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case where Plaintiffs sought a declaration that the Massachusetts Constitution protects a fundamental right to physician-assisted suicide, thereby immunizing the practice from criminal prosecution, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the proposed right, as defined by Plaintiffs, was not supported in the relevant provisions of the Constitution.Plaintiffs were a licensed physician who wished to provide physician-assisted suicide and a retired physician who had been diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Plaintiffs brought a civil action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that terminally ill patients with six months or less to live have a constitutional right to receive a prescription for lethal medication in order to bring about death in a manner and time of their choosing. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights does not protect physician-assisted suicide; and (2) the law of manslaughter prohibits physician-assisted suicide without offending constitutional protections. View "Kligler v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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DiMasi, then a 47-year-old nurse-practitioner student, received an influenza vaccine on December 4, 2012. She was admitted to the hospital on December 5, 2012, released the next day, and then readmitted on December 8. Almost three years later, DiMasi sought compensation under 42 U.S.C. 300aa-10 to -34 (Vaccine Act). In 2019, a special master denied compensation, noting that the parties agreed on the post-vaccination conditions at issue, ultimately diagnosed in 2016 and 2017: “small fiber neuropathy” and “postural tachycardia syndrome” (POTS), which are related. He also noted that no claim of significant aggravation of a preexisting condition had been presented and found that the vaccine was not the cause in fact of the conditions. DiMasi had 30 days to seek Claims Court review.On September 15, 2020, within a year of the final judgment, DiMasi sent the special master a letter, with medical records and other attachments, requesting that she be allowed to proceed pro se and that her case be reopened. The special master allowed DiMasi to proceed pro se and construed her request to reopen her case as a motion for relief from judgment under Claims Court Rule 60. The special master ultimately vacated the denial. The Federal Circuit appointed counsel for DiMasi and requested additional briefing, noting that it had “more questions than answers” about the findings and proceedings concerning DiMasi’s former counsel’s submissions and choices. View "DiMasi v. Secretary of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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Yale New Haven Hospital (“YNHH”) receives federal funds under the Medicare Act. As part of the statutory formula for determining appropriate funding, the Medicare Act directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the “Secretary”) to “estimate” the “amount of uncompensated care” that each hospital will provide to indigent patients in a given federal fiscal year (“FFY”). Here, YNHH contended that the Secretary failed to conduct adequate notice-and-comment rulemaking before choosing to use only YNHH’s historical data – and not that of a hospital that had recently merged into YNHH – to estimate YNHH’s amount of uncompensated care for FFY 2014. The Secretary moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C Section 1395ww(r)(3), which prohibits “judicial review” of “[a]ny estimate of the Secretary.” The district court denied the Secretary’s motion, reasoning that section 1395ww(r)(3) applies only to substantive challenges to estimates, but not to procedural challenges like YNHH’s. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment in favor of YNHH.   The Secretary appealed, disputing (1) the district court’s ruling that it had jurisdiction to consider YNHH’s procedural challenge, and alternatively (2) the district court’s merits ruling that the Secretary’s estimate was procedurally unlawful.   The Second Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of the Secretary’s motion to dismiss YNHH’s procedural challenge for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction; vacated, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the district court’s grant of summary judgment for YNHH on its procedural challenge; REMAND the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the remainder of YNHH’s action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction; and dismissed YNHH’s cross-appeal disputing the district court’s chosen remedy. View "Yale New Haven Hosp. v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court, after a hearing, finding B.N. to be severely disabled and to be in need of extended custody, care, and treatment, holding that the trial court abused its discretion, but the error was harmless.B.N. requested to appear at her commitment hearing in person, but the trial court denied the request, stating, "we're proceeding remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic." On appeal, B.N. argued that the trial court's denial of her request for in-person hearing violated Administrative Rule 14 and constitutional and statutory provisions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not make the requisite findings of good cause to conduct B.N.'s commitment hearing virtually; but (2) the trial court's error was harmless. View "In re Civil Commitment of B.N." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals that Respondent's due process rights were not violated in the proceedings which led to the trial court's conclusion that Respondent had a mental illness and was dangerous to himself, holding that there was no error.At the end of a hearing, the trial court concluded that Respondent had a mental illness and was a danger to himself and entering a thirty-day commitment order. At issue was whether the trial court, in the absence of counsel for the state, called witnesses and elicited testimony during the hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not violate Respondent's due process right to an impartial tribunal. View "In re J.R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the Industrial Commission denying the Department's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims arising from certain regulatory actions taken by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services in response to deficiencies that Department employees had identified during inspections of Plaintiffs' facility, holding that the Commission erred in failing to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims.Plaintiffs, an adult care home and its owner, contested the Department's regulatory actions by initiating a contested case before the Office of Administrative Hearings. The parties settled. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a claim with the Commission pursuant to the North Carolina State Tort Claims Act, alleging negligence. The Department filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that Plaintiffs' claims were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The Commission denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs' claims were barred by sovereign immunity; and (2) Plaintiffs failed to assert a viable negligence claim against the Department. View "Cedarbrook Residential Center, Inc. v. N.C. Dep't of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the proceedings below did not result in a due process violation but reversed the court of appeals' decision to affirm the order of the trial court to have Respondent involuntarily committed, holding that the record evidence and the trial court's findings did not support that determination.The State filed a petition to have Respondent involuntarily committed for additional inpatient treatment pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 122C-261 et seq. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeals properly found that there was no due process violation in the proceedings below; but (2) the trial court's findings could not be deemed sufficient to support a determination that Respondent posed a danger to himself given its failure to find a reasonable probability of Respondent suffering serious physical debilitation within the near future without immediate, involuntary commitment. View "In re C.G." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the trial court did not violate Defendant's due process rights by proceeding with Defendant's involuntary commitment hearing when Defendant was not represented by counsel and that the trial court's factual findings were sufficient to support its conclusion that Defendant was dangerous to herself.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not violate Defendant's due process rights; (2) Defendant preserved her right to challenge the trial court's incorporation of a non-testifying physician's exam report into its findings of fact, and the trial court committed harmless error by incorporating the report into its findings of fact; and (3) the court of appeals correctly held that the trial court made sufficient findings of fact based on the evidence presented by the testifying witness to support its involuntary commitment decision. View "In re R.S.H." on Justia Law