Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order reappointing the public guardian of the county as conservator of D.P. under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, because D.P. was gravely disabled as a result of a mental disorder. In the published portion of the opinion, the court held that the trial court properly instructed the jury using the applicable statutory definition of gravely disabled. View "Conservatorship of D.P." on Justia Law

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Federal law requires that California must pay the counties and their clinics one hundred percent of the cost of a defined list of services for providing Medicare beneficiaries. Furthermore, California's Medi-Cal statute is consistent with the federal requirement. The Clinic filed suit against the State, seeking the full amount the clinic paid to a contractor. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of the Clinic's petition seeking to require the state to pay one hundred percent of the amount the Clinic paid the contractor. View "Tulare Pediatric Health Care Center v. State Department of Health Care Services" on Justia Law

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Minton, a transgender man diagnosed with gender dysphoria, sued under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Civil Code 51(b), which guarantees “full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind.” Minton’s physician, Dr. Dawson, scheduled Minton's hysterectomy at Mercy, which is part of Dignity Health. Minton told a Mercy nurse that he is transgender. The following day, Mercy notified Dawson that the procedure was canceled. Mercy’s president, Ivie, informed Dawson that she would “never” be allowed to perform Minton's hysterectomy at Mercy because it was “part of a course of treatment for gender dysphoria, as opposed to any other medical diagnosis.” At Ivie's suggestion, Dawson was able to get emergency admitting privileges at Methodist Hospital, a non-Catholic Dignity hospital about 30 minutes away. Dawson performed Minton’s hysterectomy at Methodist three days later. Dignity argued that as a Catholic hospital, Mercy is bound to follow its facially neutral “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which prohibit direct sterilization and require that bodily and functional integrity be preserved. The court of appeal reversed the dismissal of Minton’s complaint. Without determining the right of Dignity to provide its services in such cases at alternative facilities, the complaint alleges that Dignity initially failed to do so and that the subsequent rectification of its denial, while likely mitigating plaintiff’s damages, did not extinguish his discrimination claim. View "Minton v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-relator Matthew Omlansky, by virtue of knowledge gleaned as a state employee involved with the Medi-Cal program, brought this qui tam action in the name of the State of California alleging that defendant Save Mart Supermarkets (Save Mart) had violated the False Claims Act in its billings to Medi-Cal for prescription and nonprescription medications, charging a higher price than cash customers paid in violation of 2009 statutory provisions capping Medi-Cal charges at a provider’s usual and customary price (“statutory cap”). Per the trial court, the gist of the alleged fraud upon Medi-Cal, Save Mart generally offered a lower price for medications to cash customers, and would also match a lower price that a competitor was offering (although it appears from an exhibit to the complaint that the latter applied only to prescriptions), but did not apply these discounts from its list prices in the billings it submitted to Medi-Cal. The State declined to intervene. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the original complaint because all of the alleged violations occurred during a period when the 2009 statutory cap was subject to a federal injunction. Plaintiff then filed an essentially identical amended complaint. The only significant change was an allegation in paragraph 45 that Save Mart’s billing practices favoring cash customers continued from December 2016 to March 2017 after the expiration of the injunction, specifying six examples of “illegal pricing.” The court sustained Save Mart’s demurrer to this pleading as to two of the six grounds raised, and denied leave to amend. It entered a judgment of dismissal. Plaintiff timely appealed, but the Court of Appeal concurred with the grounds for the trial court’s ruling, thereby affirming dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint. View "Omlansky v. Save Mart Supermarkets" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a 24-hour skilled nursing facility, appealed an order denying its petition to compel arbitration of claims asserting negligent or willful misconduct, elder abuse, and wrongful death filed against it by decedent’s daughter as successor in interest and individually. The trial court found the successor claims were not arbitrable because no arbitration agreement existed between decedent and defendant, given defendant’s failure to prove daughter had authority to sign the agreement on decedent’s behalf. The court further found the arbitration agreement was unenforceable against daughter individually on grounds of unconscionability. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court order. View "Lopez v. Bartlett Care Center, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case presented a narrow issue of whether respondent Michelle Rouillard in her capacity as director of California’s Department of Managed Health Care (Department) violated the California Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when she sent letters to seven health care service plans directing them to comply with California law in their coverage of abortion services. The issue reduced to whether a “voluntary” abortion was a “medically necessary” procedure that health care service plans were required to cover. The letters told the recipients that health care plans could not limit or exclude coverage for termination of pregnancies. Petitioner Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, Inc., claimed that by sending out the letters interpreting “basic health care services” to include abortions, respondent ignored the APA rulemaking process. The Court of Appeal concluded petitioner’s argument set forth a false dichotomy between a “voluntary” service and a “medically necessary” health care service, which health care plans were required to cover under California Code of Regulations, title 28, section 1300.67."This false assumption led petitioner to the flawed conclusion that the Department’s letters were for the purpose of clarifying an ambiguity in the statute, and that compliance with the rulemaking procedures of the APA was necessary." The Court determined the application of the regulation to the facts of this case was unambiguous, and the Department was not required to comply with the APA. View "Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit v. Rouillard" on Justia Law

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The owners and operators of a skilled nursing facility contended the trial court erred when it denied their petition to compel arbitration. They attempted to enforce arbitration in this action for elder abuse and wrongful death brought by a decedent through her husband as successor in interest, her husband individually, and their children. Appellants claimed the successor had signed the arbitration agreements as the decedent’s authorized agent. The trial court determined that although the successor did not sign the agreements as the decedent’s agent, he expressly bound himself to arbitrate all claims he held individually and as the successor in interest. As a result, the decedent’s claim for elder abuse and the husband’s individual claim for wrongful death were subject to arbitration. However, the court denied the petition because the children’s claims were not subject to arbitration, and allowing the arbitration and the litigation to proceed concurrently could result in inconsistent findings of fact and law. Finding no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Valentine v. Plum Healthcare Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Health and Safety Code section 1418.8 concerns nursing home residents who lack the capacity to make their own health care decisions and are without family members or other legal surrogates. The superior court held that the statute, on its face, violates due process under the California Constitution by failing to require notice to residents of a physician’s predicate determinations that the patient lacks capacity, has no surrogate decision-maker, needs a recommended medical intervention, and has a right to judicial review; was never intended to authorize interdisciplinary team (IDT) decision-making for administration of antipsychotic medication, and violates due process, as applied, when used to authorize such drugs; and violates the patient’s privacy rights and is unconstitutional as applied to decisions regarding end of life withdrawal of care. The court of appeal reversed, construing the statute to uphold its constitutionality rather than enjoining its use, and directing the superior court to enter a modified judgment, requiring nursing homes to adopt additional procedures. Written and oral notice must be provided to every resident for whom section 1418.8 is invoked, of any determination of the resident’s incapacity; any determination that no surrogate decision-maker is available; any proposed medical intervention; the fact that a decision will be made by the IDT; the resident’s right to have a patient representative participate in IDT decision-making; and the resident’s right to judicial review of IDT decisions. Except in emergency circumstances, no medical treatment decision by an IDT on behalf of a resident may be implemented until the resident has been given a reasonable opportunity to seek judicial review. Except in emergency circumstances, every IDT must include a patient representative, and where the resident has no family or friend willing to serve, someone unaffiliated with the nursing home must serve as the patient representative. The IDT process may be used to authorize the administration of antipsychotic medications and for decisions to create or change physician orders for life-sustaining treatment, DNRs or comfort care orders, and to transfer patients to hospice care. View "California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Medi–Cal, California’s program under the joint federal-state Medicaid program (Welf. & Inst. Code 14000), provides health care services to certain low-income individuals and families, including the aged, blind, disabled, pregnant women, and others. (42 U.S.C. 1396). Beginning in 2013-2014, there were delays in the determination of applications for Medi-Cal benefits, sometimes with severe consequences for applicants who did not obtain needed medical care. Applicants and an advocacy organization sued the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). The court ordered DHCS to make Medi-Cal eligibility determinations within 45 days unless certain exceptions applied. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by declining to abstain but California law does not impose on DHCS a duty to make all Medi-Cal eligibility determinations within 45 days. There is an obligation to determine Medi-Cal eligibility within 45 days under federal regulation 32 CFR 435.912(c)(3)(ii), but that obligation is subject to exceptions so that the underlying obligation is not sufficiently clear and plain to be enforceable in mandate. It was not clear whether DHCS was out of compliance with an overall performance benchmark of processing 90% of applications within 45 days; absent such evidence, it was error to issue writ relief applicable across-the-board. View "Rivera v. Kent" on Justia Law

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Hoag, a Newport Beach acute care hospital whose patients include beneficiaries of California’s Medi-Cal program, was audited by the California Department of Health Care Services. Hoag’s cost report for fiscal year 2009 included $2,413,623 in audit reimbursement reductions mandated by Assembly Bill (AB) 5 and AB 1183. Hoag filed an administrative appeal that was a blanket challenge to the legality of those assembly bills and the legality of the reimbursement reductions based upon them. Over 18 months later, Hoag submitted a second administrative appeal regarding an alleged $620,903 calculation error that it requested be “incorporated” into the open administrative appeal. Hoag alleged that if its global challenge failed, the $2,413,623 reduction should not include $620,903 stemming from an erroneous calculation of Medi-Cal days subject to the reductions required by the assembly bills. The Department’s Office of Administrative Hearings and Appeals dismissed the administrative appeal of the alleged calculation error as untimely. The court of appeal affirmed. Hoag’s legal challenge to the Medi-Cal audit reduction is a separate issue from its challenge to the alleged calculation error and was, therefore, untimely. View "Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian v. Kent" on Justia Law