Articles Posted in Health Care Law

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In this class action lawsuit, the trial court found that the State wrongfully denied health benefits to a number of its part-time employees. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was how to value the damages suffered by that group of employees when they were denied health benefits. The State argued that the only damages to the employees were immediate medical expenses paid by employees during the time they were denied health benefits. But evidence showed that people denied health care benefits suffer additional damage. They often avoid going to the doctor for preventive care, and they defer care for medical problems. This results in increased long-term medical costs and a lower quality of life. Based on this evidence, the trial court correctly rejected the State's limited definition of damages because it would significantly understate the damages suffered by the employees. The Supreme Court affirmed.View "Moore v. Health Care Auth." on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed suit against her former employers, alleging violation of Health and Safety Code section 1278.5 and a violation of public policy. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the denial of a jury trial. The court concluded that denial of a jury trial in this case is a proper matter for writ relief. The court also concluded that the statutory language and legislative history of section 1278.5 reflect an intent to permit a jury trial. Even apart from this evidence of legislative intent, the court concluded that a jury trial is appropriate as the gist of plaintiff's cause of action sounds in law rather than equity. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for writ of mandate.View "Shaw v. Super. Ct." 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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Employee was injured in a work-related accident. Employee obtained approval for surgery from a union-sponsored benefit plan (the Fund) and proceeded with the surgery at a Hospital. After a hearing, a workers’ compensation judge concluded that the surgery was not reasonable and necessary and ordered Employer to reimburse the Fund for the medical bills but also concluded that Employer could seek reimbursement of the expenses from the medical providers. The Hospital was not given notice of that hearing. Before a second hearing on Employer’s request for reimbursement, the Hospital intervened. The compensation judge ordered the Hospital to reimburse Employer. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversed, concluding that the automatic-reimbursement rule announced in Brooks v. A.M.F., Inc. should be extended to the Hospital because it was not given notice of the first hearing. The Supreme Court reversed after declining to extend its decision in Brooks and require automatic payment of a medical provider’s treatment expenses when an employer fails to give the medical provider notice of its right to intervene in a workers’ compensation proceeding to determine responsibility for those expenses, holding that the Hospital was not entitled to automatic payment of its medical bills for Employee’s treatment. Remanded.View "Gamble v. Twin Cities Concrete Prods." on Justia Law