Articles Posted in Health Law

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Marlene Baker LaBerge, a 73-year-old woman, was a resident and patient of a 24- hour skilled nursing facility owned by Italian Maple Holdings, LLC dba La Paloma Healthcare Center (La Paloma). LaBerge's heirs, Paul LaBerge, Suzanne Marx, and Talmadge Baker (collectively Plaintiffs) sued La Paloma and Plum Healthcare, LLC (together Defendants) for elder abuse, violations of the Patient's Bill of Rights as codified at Health and Safety Code section 1430, negligence, and wrongful death. In response, Defendants filed a petition to compel arbitration based on the two arbitration agreements that LaBerge had executed. The two arbitration agreements included language required by Code of Civil Procedure section 1295, subdivision (c), requiring such agreements to include a 30-day "cooling off" period, during which the parties to the agreement may rescind it. Ten days after LaBerge signed the agreements (and therefore, prior to the expiration of the statutorily-required 30- day rescission period), LaBerge passed away. The superior court denied the petition to compel arbitration, relying on Rodriguez v. Superior Court, 176 Cal.App.4th 1461 (2009) to conclude that the agreements were not effective until the 30-day rescission period passed without either party rescinding the agreements; because LaBerge died before the expiration of the 30-day rescission period, the agreements could not be given effect. On appeal, Defendants contended the trial court’s interpretation was wrong, and the Court of Appeal should decline to follow Rodriguez because that case was factually distinguishable from this case. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in interpreting section 1295, subdivision (c), and that the arbitration agreements were valid and enforceable. Pursuant to the plain language of section 1295, subdivision (c), the terms of those agreements governed the parties' relationship upon their execution; the fact that one signatory died before the expiration of the statutory 30-day rescission period does not render the terms of the parties' agreements unenforceable in the absence of other grounds for not enforcing them. View "Baker v. Italian Maple Holdings" on Justia Law

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This case turned on whether an attorney-in-fact who admitted her principal to a residential care facility for the elderly made a “health care” decision. If she did, as the trial court found, she acted outside the scope of her authority under the power of attorney, and the admission agreement she signed, and its arbitration clause this appeal sought to enforce, were void. On these facts the Court of Appeal concluded the decision was health care decision, and the attorney-in-fact who admitted her, acting under the PAL, was not authorized to make those kinds of decisions on behalf of the principal. As a result of this conclusion, the Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of a motion by the residential care facility to compel arbitration. Because the attorney-in-fact acting under the PAL did not have authority to admit the principal to the residential care facility for the elderly, her execution of the admission agreement and its arbitration clause were void. View "Hutcheson v. Eskaton Fountainwood Lodge" on Justia Law

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Pacific Bay treated an individual who was a subscriber to a Blue Shield health plan. It submitted invoices to Blue Shield for payment for the services rendered to the subscriber. Pacific Bay contends it was underpaid and brought suit against Blue Shield to recover the additional amount it claimed to be owed. The court sustained Blue Shield's demurrer to the first amended complaint (FAC) without leave to amend, finding that Pacific Bay had not shown that it was entitled to any payment from Blue Shield. As an out-of-network, nonemergency service provider, Pacific Bay was entitled to payment for treating Blue Shield's subscriber under the terms of the applicable evidence of coverage (EOC). Pacific Bay did not allege Blue Shield paid it improperly under the EOC, nor did it argue that it could allege additional facts to support such a claim. Pacific Bay claimed it was underpaid. Against this backdrop, Pacific Bay's other allegations did not give rise to any valid cause of action. View "Pacific Bay Recovery v. Cal. Physicians' Services" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the trial court employed the correct legal standard in determining the reasonable value of appellant's emergency treatment of four patients as an interventional cardiologist. The Court of Appeal agreed with the parties that the court in Children's Hospital Central California v. Blue Cross of California, (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 1260, correctly applied the governing standard. The Court of Appeal declined to adopt appellant's narrow reading of the case and, instead, held that Children's Hospital supports the decision that the trial court made here to consider a variety of evidence to determine the "reasonable market value" of the services that appellant provided under quantum meruit principles. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. View "Sanjiv Goel, M.D., Inc. v. Regal Medical Group" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law

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Psychotherapist-patient privilege does not protect subpoenaed records from disclosure to the Department of Consumer Affairs, because Business and Professions Code section 2225, a statute enacted after codification of the privilege, permits disclosure of records that the privilege would otherwise shelter when the Department and the Board are investigating potential improper prescribing of controlled substances by a psychiatrist. Furthermore, a psychiatric patient's constitutional right to privacy requires the Department to demonstrate a subpoena for the patient's records is supported by a compelling interest and that the information demanded is "relevant and material" to the particular investigation being conducted. In this case, the State had a compelling interest in investigating excessive or otherwise improper prescribing of controlled substances, and petitioner's declaration established most of the records demanded by the subpoena were relevant and material to that investigation. However, further narrowing of the Department's subpoenas was required to comport with the weighty privacy interests at stake. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals granted the petition in part and vacated in part. View "Cross v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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John Jarman (later represented by his daughter, Janice Jarman, as successor in interest), sued HCR ManorCare, Inc., and Manor Care of Hemet, CA, LLC, (collectively, "Manor Care"), which owned and operated a nursing home facility in Hemet. Jarman was a patient at the facility for three months in 2008, and alleged claims for violations of patient’s rights pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 1430, elder abuse, and negligence, all arising out of the care he received at the nursing home. The jury returned a special verdict finding Manor Care committed 382 violations of Jarman’s rights, and that its conduct was negligent. The jury awarded Jarman statutory and damages caused by the negligence. The jury also made a finding that Manor Care had acted with malice, oppression or fraud. However, the trial court granted Manor Care’s oral motion to strike the punitive damage claim, agreeing with Manor Care that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding of malice, oppression or fraud. The trial court ultimately entered judgment against Manor Care in the amount of $195,500, and awarded Jarman $368,755 in attorney fees. Jarman appealed the portion of the judgment denying him punitive damages, arguing the trial court erred by striking the jury’s finding Manor Care acted with malice, oppression or fraud. The Court of Appeal agreed the court erred in that respect and reversed the punitive damages judgment by the trial court. For its part, Manor Care argued on appeal that: (1) the trial court erred by allowing the jury to award Jarman a separate measure of statutory damages under section 1430 for each of the 382 violations of his rights found by the jury; (2) the statutory damage award must be reversed in its entirety against HCR, because Jarman did not allege HCR engaged in conduct that violated his rights and because HCR was not a “licensee” subject to liability under section 1430; (3) the statutory damage award should have been reversed against both HCR and Hemet because the special verdict on the statutory claim made inconsistent references to each of them, and was thus insufficient to support a judgment against either; (4) the negligence verdict could not stand against HCR because the special verdict on negligence omitted any finding of causation against HCR specifically, and that it cannot stand against either HCR or Hemet because the damages awarded were inherently speculative; and (5) any reversal of the judgment which favors it will also necessitate a reversal and remand of the attorney fees award. Finding no reversible error with respect to Manor Care's arguments, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Jarman v. HCR ManorCare" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs each bought skin puncture lancets and glucose test strips from retail pharmacy stores owned and/or operated by defendants. When plaintiffs purchased these items, the retail pharmacies charged them "sales tax" and subsequently remitted the money they collected as sales tax to the Board of Equalization. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the lancets and test strips have been exempt from sales tax since March 10, 2000, the date on which the Board made effective California Code of Regulations, title 18, section 1591.1, subdivision (b)(5). The Supreme Court held in Loeffler v. Target Corp., that the customer was not the taxpayer and thus could not herself seek a refund from the Board. At issue was whether the customer may obtain a court order compelling the retail pharmacy to file an administrative refund claim with the Board. The state's Supreme Court held in Javor v. Board of Equalization that the Legislature's authority in this regard was not exclusive and that courts retain a residual power to fill remedial gaps by fashioning tax refund remedies in "unique circumstances." The court concluded that a court may create a new tax refund remedy—and, accordingly, that the requisite "unique circumstances" exist— only if (1) the person seeking the new tax refund remedy has no statutory tax refund remedy available to it, (2) the tax refund remedy sought is not inconsistent with existing tax refund remedies, and (3) the Board has already determined that the person seeking the new tax refund remedy is entitled to a refund, such that the refusal to create that remedy will unjustly enrich either the taxpayer/retailer or the Board. In this case, because the Revenue and Taxation Code does not provide for this remedy and because plaintiffs have not established any of the three prerequisites to the exercise of the judicial residual power to fashion new remedies, the court concluded that the trial court correctly sustained demurrers to all of the claims in the complaint without leave to amend. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McClain v. Sav-On Drugs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law, Tax Law

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Diana Lemke challenged the trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of respondents Sutter Roseville Medical Center, Peter V. Hull, M.D., Debbie Madding, and Julie Fralick (collectively Sutter Roseville). Lemke was terminated from her employment as a registered nurse at Sutter Roseville after improper administration of narcotics to a patient and failure to properly monitor and document the patient’s condition. In response, Lemke filed an action against Sutter Roseville in which she claimed retaliation for whistleblowing, disability discrimination, failure to accommodate a disability, failure to engage in an interactive process, retaliation, harassment, failure to prevent retaliation, and defamation. On appeal, Lemke addressed only her causes of action for retaliation, failure to prevent retaliation, and defamation, contending: (1) there was a triable issue of material fact as to whether Sutter Roseville’s stated reasons for terminating her employment were pretextual; (2) the same reasons establishing her claim for retaliation also compel reversal of the trial court’s dismissal of her claim for failure to prevent retaliation; (3) she presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate triable issues of material fact for her claim of defamation; and (4) the trial court erred in its evidentiary rulings related to the motion for summary judgment. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded Lemke did not meet her burden to show Sutter Roseville’s stated reasons were merely a pretext for retaliating against her. Furthermore, the Court determined the trial court properly dismissed her claim of failure to prevent retaliation. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Lemke v. Sutter Roseville Medical Center" on Justia Law

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McNair obtained a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in 2000 and began driving. McNair has a history of diabetes and cognitive deficits. While under the care of Department of Public Health (DPH) physicians, McNair signed forms, stating that his medical records would not be released without his written authorization, absent an articulated exception. One exception applied if the DPH was “permitted or required by law” to release the information. In 2002, Dr. Pope advised “serious caution" in recommending that the CDL be renewed. In 2004. Dr. Kim refused to certify McNair for a CDL. None of the other physicians would agree to certify him. Dr. Kim wrote a letter to support McNair's application for SSI disability benefits, stating her opinion,that he was not able to hold down any type of full-time employment. Later, Alameda County Transit hired McNair as a bus operator. After learning of his job and that McNair had applied for a certificate to drive school busses, Kim contacted the DMV. McNair’s CDL was temporarily revoked. He lost his job. McNair filed suit alleging breach of his medical privacy rights. The court of appeal affirmed summary adjudication, finding his intentional tort and breach of contract claims barred by the litigation privilege, Civil Code 47(b); both claims were based solely on the propriety of Kim‟s letter to the DMV. View "McNair v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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This case presented two issues of first impression for the Court of Appeals’ review. The issues touched on the interaction between (a) hospital peer review proceedings against doctors governed by sections 805 to 809.7 of the Business and Professions Code, and (b) the hospital whistleblower statute, Health and Safety Code section 1278.5. The first question was left open by the California Supreme Court “Fahlen v. Sutter Central Valley Hospital,” (58 Cal.4th 655 (2014)). Fahlen held that a physician could prosecute a section 1278.5 action without first having to prevail in an administrative mandate proceeding attacking a peer review determination, but the court did not go so far as to excuse the physician from completing the internal peer review process before filing a section 1278.5 action. The second question was whether a physician bringing a section 1278.5 action could name as defendants individual physicians involved in the peer review process who allegedly instigated the process in retaliation for the physician’s whistleblowing. Based on the analysis of “Fahlen” and the text and legislative history of section 1278.5, the Court of Appeals held that a physician need not complete the internal peer review process prior to filing a section 1278.5 action. With respect to the second issue, the Court held that a physician may not name individual physicians in his/her 1278.5 complaint. A third issue involved the tripartite interaction of the anti-SLAPP stattue, the peer review process, and a physician’s religious discrimination claims against a hospital under FEHA. Specifically, the issue raised here was whether the fact the physician reiterated complaints of religious discrimination by the hospital in the context of protesting the initiation of peer review proceedings against him so intertwined his discrimination claims with the peer review proceedings as to subject his discrimination claims to an anti-SLAPP motion. The Court of Appeals found that based on the facts of this case, the physician first voiced his complaints of religious discrimination prior to the initiation of the peer review proceedings. His discrimination claims were therefore not based on activity protected under the anti-SLAPP statute. View "Armin v. Riverside Community Hospital" on Justia Law