Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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In the lawsuit underlying these consolidated writ proceedings, the People of the State of California, by and through the Santa Clara County Counsel, the Orange County District Attorney, the Los Angeles County Counsel, and the Oakland City Attorney, filed an action against defendants— various pharmaceutical companies involved in the manufacture, marketing, distribution, and sale of prescription opioid medications. The People alleged the defendants made false and misleading statements as part of a deceptive marketing scheme designed to minimize the risks of opioid medications and inflate their benefits. This scheme, the People alleged, caused a public health crisis in California by dramatically increasing the number of opioid prescriptions, the use and abuse of opioids, and opioid-related deaths. These proceedings pertained to a discovery dispute after several of the defendants served subpoenas on two nonparty counties, petitioners County of Los Angeles and County of Alameda, seeking records of patients in various county programs, including individual prescription data and individual patient records related to substance abuse treatment. After petitioners and the Johnson & Johnson defendants engaged in various informal and formal means to attempt to resolve the dispute, the superior court issued a discovery order granting the Johnson & Johnson defendants’ motions to compel production of the records. The Court of Appeal concluded petitioners established that the superior court’s order threatened a serious intrusion into the privacy interests of the patients whose records were at issue: the Johnson & Johnson defendants failed to demonstrate their interests in obtaining “such a vast production of medical information” outweighed the significant privacy interests that the nonparty petitioners identified. Accordingly, the Court granted petitioners’ writ petitions and directed the superior court to vacate its order compelling production of the requested documents, and to enter a new order denying Johnson & Johnson defendants’ motions to compel. View "County of Los Angeles v. Superior Ct." on Justia Law

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CMA and others filed suit against Aetna, seeking among other claims, an injunction for alleged violations of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL; Bus. & Prof. Code, section 17200). The trial court found that CMA lacked standing under the UCL because it was not directly injured by Aetna's policy.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of Aetna's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the body of law permitting an association to bring a nonclass representative action does not bestow standing upon CMA to seek an injunction against Aetna under the UCL, whether or not CMA individually suffered injury in fact and lost money or property. The court also concluded that CMA's evidence that it diverted substantial resources to assist its physician members who were injured by Aetna's policy did not create a material disputed fact as to whether CMA itself suffered injury in fact and lost money or property. The court explained that an association must sustain direct economic injury to itself and not just its members to bring a UCL claim. Furthermore, evidence that an association diverted resources to investigate its members' claims of injury and advocate for their interests is not enough to show standing under the UCL. In this case, the federal authorities CMA cites are neither binding on this court nor instructive. View "California Medical Ass'n v. Aetna Health of California, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, consisting of the estate of decedent Edward William Kuntz (decedent), his wife, and his three children, sued, among others, the Kaiser Foundation Hospital and the Permanente Medical Group, Inc. (collectively Kaiser), asserting causes of action sounding in elder abuse, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful death. Kaiser filed a petition to stay the action and compel arbitration. The trial court granted the petition as to the elder abuse cause of action, staying the other causes of action. Ultimately, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Kaiser. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing: (1) Kaiser failed to satisfy its burden of producing a valid agreement to arbitrate; and (2) Kaiser failed to comply with the mandatory requirements of Health and Safety Code section 1363.1 concerning the disclosure of arbitration requirements. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Kuntz v. Kaiser Foundation Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal issued a peremptory writ of mandate directing the trial court to set aside its order enjoining the County from enforcing its orders to the extent they prohibit outdoor dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic until after conducting an appropriate risk-benefit analysis. During the pendency of the petition, the County lifted its prohibition based on infection rates declining and ICU availability increasing. However, the court concluded that these cases are not moot because conditions may change and the County may re-impose its outdoor restaurant dining ban.The court held that courts should be extremely deferential to public health authorities, particularly during a pandemic, and particularly where, as here, the public health authorities have demonstrated a rational basis for their actions. In this case, the County's order banning outdoor dining is not a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law and is rationally related to limiting the spread of COVID-19.Even assuming that Mark's, a restaurant, has a First Amendment right to freedom of assembly, or that Mark's has standing to bring a First Amendment challenge on behalf of its patrons or employees, the court held that the order does not violate Mark's purported First Amendment right to freedom of assembly or that of its patrons. The court explained that the County's order does not regulate assembly based on the expressive conduct of the assembly; it is undisputed that limiting the spread of COVID-19 is a legitimate and substantial government interest; and the order leaves open alternative channels for assembling. Accordingly, the court entered a new order denying the Restauranteurs' request for a preliminary injunction. View "County of Los Angeles Department of Health v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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The People of the State of California, by and through the Santa Clara County Counsel, the Orange County District Attorney, the Los Angeles County Counsel, and the Oakland City Attorney, filed suit against various pharmaceutical companies involved in the manufacture, marketing, distribution, and sale of prescription opioid medications. The People alleged the defendants made false and misleading statements as part of a deceptive marketing scheme designed to minimize the risks of opioid medications and inflate their benefits. The People alleged this scheme caused a public health crisis in California by dramatically increasing opioid prescriptions, opioid use, opioid abuse, and opioid-related deaths. In their suit, the People allege causes of action for violations of the False Advertising Law, and the public nuisance statutes. After several years of litigation, the defendants served business record subpoenas on four nonparty state agencies: the California State Board of Registered Nursing (Nursing Board), the California State Board of Pharmacy (Pharmacy Board), the Medical Board of California (Medical Board), and the California Department of Justice (DOJ). The Pharmacy Board, the Medical Board, and the DOJ served objections to the subpoenas. The Nursing Board filed a motion for a protective order seeking relief from the production obligations of its subpoena. After further litigation, which is recounted below, the trial court ordered the state agencies to produce documents in response to the subpoenas. In consolidated proceedings, the state agencies challenged the trial court's orders compelling production of documents. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the motions to compel against the Pharmacy Board and Medical Board were untimely, and the defendants were required to serve consumer notices on at least the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals whose identities would be disclosed in the administrative records, investigatory files, and coroner’s reports. Furthermore, the Court concluded the requests for complete administrative records and investigatory files, were overbroad and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. "The requests for complete administrative records and investigatory files also ran afoul of the constitutional right to privacy and the statutory official information and deliberative process privileges." The trial court was directed to vacate its orders compelling production of documents, and to enter new orders denying the motions to compel and, for the Nursing Board, granting its motion for a protective order. View "Board of Registered Nursing v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Alice Borman filed this action against defendants Tara Brown, M.D. and North County Eye Center, Inc. (NCEC). Borman alleged that she sought treatment from defendants for a “droopy eyelid and brow.” According to Borman, Dr. Brown told Borman that Brown could perform a “brow lift” to correct the problem, but that a brow lift would not be covered by Borman’s insurance. Borman further alleged that Dr. Brown told Borman that she could instead perform a blepharoplasty, which would be covered by Borman’s insurance. Borman further claimed that Dr. Brown’s statement that a brow lift would not be covered by Borman’s insurance was false, and that Dr. Brown had no reasonable basis for making the statement. Borman alleged that she relied on Dr. Brown’s representations and agreed to undergo a blepharoplasty. After undergoing the blepharoplasty, Borman claimed that she continued to have physical difficulties with her eyelid and her brow. Borman consulted another doctor who advised Borman that Dr. Brown had “performed the wrong procedure and that a brow[ ]lift should have been performed instead.” The trial court denied Borman's motion for summary judgment, denied the motion for summary adjudication of the professional negligence and lack of informed consent causes action, but granted the motion for summary adjudication as to Borman’s fraud and deceit and battery causes of action. The trial court entered judgment in favor of defendants, and awarded costs to defendants as prevailing parties. Borman appealed, arguing the trial court erred in granting defendants' motion for summary adjudication with respect to her fraud and deceit cause of action, because the trial court should have permitted her to “proceed at trial on a claim for ‘[n]egligent [m]isrepresentation.’ ” The Court of Appeal concluded the record contained evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Dr. Brown intended for Borman to rely on her statement that a brow lift would not be covered by Borman’s insurance. Since that was the sole element of a negligent misrepresentation theory of liability that the trial court found Borman would be unable to prove, the Court further concluded the trial court erred in granting summary adjudication of Borman’s fraud and deceit cause of action. The trial court's postjudgment cost order, and the order granting summary adjudication of Brown’s fraud and deceit cause of action were both reversed, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Borman v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Anna Sandoval-Ryan signed admission documents on behalf of her brother, Jesus Sandoval, following his admission to Sacramento Post-Acute (Post- Acute), a skilled nursing facility owned by Oleander Holdings, LLC (Oleander) and Plum Healthcare Group, LLC (Plum Healthcare). Among the documents plaintiff signed were two agreements to arbitrate claims arising out of the facility’s care for Sandoval. Sandoval’s condition deteriorated while being cared for at the facility, and he was transferred to a hospital where he later died. Plaintiff sued defendants Post-Acute, Oleander, and Plum Healthcare in superior court; she brought claims on her own behalf and on behalf of Sandoval. Defendants moved to compel arbitration of plaintiff’s claims. The trial court denied the motion on the basis the agreements were invalid because they were secured by fraud, undue influence, and duress. Defendants appealed the trial court’s ruling, contending the parties agreed to allow the arbitrator to decide threshold questions of arbitrability, and the trial court erred by deciding the issue instead. Absent clear and unmistakable language delegating threshold arbitrability issues to the arbitrator, the Court of Appeal concluded defendants’ claim lacked merit. View "Sandoval-Ryan v. Oleander Holdings" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the reappointment of S.A.'s conservator under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act and the trial court's order that she can be medicated against her will. The court held that substantial evidence showed that S.A. was gravely disabled where S.A. had schizophrenia and lacked insight about her mental illness, S.A. would not take medication without the support of a conservator, and S.A. cannot provide for herself without a conservatorship and without medication. The court also held that the involuntary medication order was proper because substantial evidence established S.A. was unable to make informed treatment decisions. View "Y.A. v. S.A." on Justia Law

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Von Staich is incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, based on 1986 second-degree murder and attempted murder convictions. In May 2020, he sought habeas corpus relief, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly thereafter, San Quentin suffered a COVID-19 outbreak that infected approximately 75 percent of the inmate population and dozens of prison staff in just weeks. Von Staich is 64 years old and suffers respiratory problems resulting from bullet fragments lodged in his lung; he claimed that he and a 65-year-old cellmate, both of whom had tested positive for COVID-19 (Van Staich was asymptomatic), were in an extremely small open cell and that there is no opportunity for social distancing.The court directed the Warden to transfer Von Staich to a suitable quarantine location, finding that the Warden and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) have acted with deliberate indifference. There is ongoing federal litigation concerning inadequate medical care due to severe overcrowding in the California correctional system and San Quentin has particular risk factors, caused by the age and architecture of the facility. The court acknowledged that the existing Eighth Amendment violation will continue until the population at San Quentin can be reduced to the 50 percent level. Unless CDCR’s existing expedited release programs are sufficient to promptly achieve this population reduction—which, the sheer numbers indicate they cannot be—CDCR will have to find additional means of releasing or transferring prisoners out of San Quentin. View "In re Von Staich" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendants entered into an illegal referral and kickback scheme in which USC paid below-market rates for hospitalist services from Concord, and Concord self-referred patients to Elevate, which shared ownership with Concord. Plaintiffs further alleged that when Plaintiff Alborzi complained to management at Verdugo Hills Hospital about the illegal scheme, the hospital stopped referring patients to him and eventually dissolved the on-call panel in retaliation.The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred by sustaining the demurrer because plaintiffs were not required to exhaust judicial remedies before asserting the causes of action they have alleged here. The court also found that plaintiffs' complaint alleged sufficient facts to support causes of action for violations of Health and Safety Code section 1278.5 and Business and Professions Code section 17200, et seq., and therefore the demurrer should have been overruled as to those claims. The court further found that plaintiffs' cause of action for violation of Government Code section 12653 failed to allege sufficient facts to state a cause of action, but leave to amend was warranted. Finally, the court found that plaintiffs have abandoned the three causes of action they did not address on appeal. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment and remanded the action with directions. View "Alborzi v. University of Southern California" on Justia Law