Articles Posted in Health Care Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint in 2010 alleging wrongful death and medical malpractice against healthcare providers (Defendants). During pretrial discovery, Plaintiff filed two separate motions to compel, which the trial court denied. Prior to trial, Plaintiff took a voluntary nonsuit. In 2010, Plaintiff filed a new complaint against the same defendants alleging the same cause of action. The trial court entered an agreed order incorporating the discovery conducted and taken in the 2010 action into the 2012 action. After the jury returned a defense verdict, Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial and to reconsider certain evidentiary rulings, challenging the trial court’s denial of her motions to compel in the nonsuited action. The trial court denied the motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the trial court’s agreed order did not expressly incorporate the motions, objections, or rulings made by the court in the 2010 nonsuit action into the 2012 action, these rulings could not be challenged in this appeal.View "Temple v. Mary Washington Hosp." on Justia Law

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Kaiser Permanente covered three patients who received care at an emergency room operated by Dameron Hospital Association. The patients were injured due to the negligence of third party tortfeasors who had automobile liability insurance with California Automobile Association Inter-insurance Bureau (AAA) and Allstate Insurance Company. Unlike Kaiser, neither AAA nor Allstate had contracts with Dameron. In the absence of an agreement for negotiated billing rates, Dameron sought to collect from AAA and Allstate its customary billing rates by asserting liens filed under the Hospital Lien Act (HLA). AAA and Allstate ignored Dameron’s HLA liens when paying settlements to the three Kaiser patients. Upon learning of the settlements, Dameron sued AAA and Allstate to recover on its liens. The trial court granted the automobile liability insurers’ motions for summary judgment on grounds the patients’ debts had already been fully satisfied by their health care service plans. Reasoning the HLA liens were extinguished for lack of any underlying debt, the trial court dismissed the case. The trial court further found dismissal was warranted because Dameron failed to timely file some of its HLA liens against AAA. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal was whether a heath care service plan’s payment of a previously negotiated rate for emergency room services insulate the tortfeasor’s automobile liability insurer from having to pay the customary rate for medical care rendered? AAA and Allstate contended they were not responsible for any amount after Kaiser paid in full the bill for the emergency room services provided by Dameron. Dameron contended that it contracted with Kaiser to preserve its rights to recover the customary billing rates from tortfeasors and their automobile liability insurers. Dameron argued the tortfeasors and their liability insurers were responsible for the entire bill for medical services at the customary rate, not just the difference between the reimbursement received from Kaiser and the customary billing rate. Although Dameron claimed it should benefit from the California Supreme Court’s holding that it may avoid extinguishment of its HLA liens upon receiving payments from health insurers, the contract in this case preceded that case by 10 years. The Court of Appeal concluded that the Dameron/Kaiser contract did not preserve the right to recover the customary billing rate for emergency room services from third party tortfeasors: "[I]f Dameron wishes to preserve its right to recover its customary billing rates through an HLA lien, it is free to contract for this right. But Dameron must actually contract for this right. A history of voluntary cooperation with Kaiser does not suffice to avail Dameron of the [Supreme Court's] guidance on reservation of contractual rights under the HLA." Consequently, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of AAA and Allstate. As to Dameron’s argument that it filed a timely claim relating to patient Rita H.’s HLA lien, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s dismissal based on the statute of limitations. Dameron has not made a sufficient showing of diligence to toll the claim under the discovery rule. View "Dameron Hospital Assn. v. AAA etc. Ins. Exchange" on Justia Law

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Luvetta Goff died as a result of complications from surgery performed by Appellants at the University of Kentucky Hospital. Goff’s estate filed an action against Appellants, alleging wrongful death and medical malpractice. This appeal arose from a discovery dispute regarding an alleged incident report generated by a surgical nurse concerning the surgery. Appellants petitioned the court of appeals for a writ of prohibition preventing the trial court from ordering production of the report, arguing that it fell within the federal privilege created by the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005. The court of appeals granted the writ but concluded that the Act’s privilege was limited. The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals regarding the protective scope of the privilege under the Act, holding that information normally contained in an incident report is not privileged under the Act and may be discovered, following an in camera review, and its information compelled. Remanded to the trial court for an in camera review.View "Tibbs v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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A patient at a health clinic learned that a clinic employee, who was not authorized to access the patient’s medical record, had discussed the patient’s pregnancy with a clerical worker at the clinic. The patient complained to a supervisor, accusing the clinic employee of breaching medical confidentiality. Shortly afterward, the clinic operator fired the employee, citing a breach of confidentiality. The employee then sued the patient for defamation. The patient counterclaimed for invasion of privacy and abuse of process, the latter claim being based on the employee’s filing and withdrawing an earlier petition for a protective order. At some point the clinic investigated the patient’s complaint and determined that it was unsubstantiated. It was later revealed that the patient herself was the source of the employee’s knowledge about the patient’s pregnancy. At trial the patient claimed that she had an absolute privilege to accuse the employee of breaching medical confidentiality. The superior court rejected that argument and determined that the patient had only a conditional privilege. The superior court also denied the patient’s motion for summary judgment and made several challenged evidentiary rulings. After a three-day jury trial, the superior court granted a directed verdict on the patient’s abuse-of-process counterclaim. The jury returned a verdict for the employee on her defamation claim, awarding one dollar in nominal damages; the jury rejected the patient’s counterclaim of invasion of privacy. Finding the employee to be the prevailing party, the superior court awarded her partial attorney’s fees. The patient appealed the superior court’s ruling on conditional privilege, its denial of her motion for summary judgment, and its evidentiary rulings. She also argued the trial court erred in giving jury instructions, in its decision to grant a directed verdict on her abuse-of-process counterclaim, and in its award of attorney’s fees to the employee. She claimed various violations of her state and federal constitutional rights. The Supreme Court concluded that the superior court did not err in any of its legal or evidentiary rulings or in its instructions to the jury, and it therefore affirmed the superior court in all respects.View "Greene v. Tinker" on Justia Law

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The patient in this case alleged that his physician negligently performed a surgical procedure and breached his duty to obtain informed consent. The patient also sued the supervising health services corporation based on vicarious liability and independent negligence. The jury found both the physician and the corporation negligent and apportioned liability between them. On appeal, the physician and corporation argued the trial court erred in several evidentiary rulings, incorrectly instructed the jury on proximate cause, and wrongly awarded pre- and post-judgment interest. In cross appeals, the physician and corporation sought review of the trial court’s decision to submit a supplemental question to the jury, as well as its failure to alter the damages award based on the jury’s response to that supplemental question. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in favor of the patient. The trial court should not have requested supplemental information from the jury after the verdict. Although the trial court decided not to modify the verdict, the jury’s response to the supplemental question arguably could have affected other proceedings between the physician and corporation. The case was remanded with instructions to the Superior Court to vacate the supplemental verdict. View "Shapria, M.D. et al. v. Christiana Care Health Services, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for negligence and premises liability, as well as battery. At issue was whether patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease are liable for injuries they inflict on health care workers hired to care for them at home. California and other jurisdictions have established the rule that Alzheimer's patients are not liable for injuries to caregivers in institutional settings. The court concluded that the same rule applies to in-home caregivers who, like their institutional counterparts, are employed specifically to assist these disabled persons; it is a settled principle that those hired to manage a hazardous condition may not sue their clients for injuries caused by the very risks they were retained to confront; the court's opinion is consistent with the strong public policy against confining the disabled in institutions; and the court encouraged the Legislature to focus its attention on the problems associated with Alzheimer's caregiving.View "Gregory v. Cott" on Justia Law