March 15, 2004 Recent Legal News

Catholic Birth Control







Medical Records



Catholic Birth Control

Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v Superior Ct. (Dept. of Managed Care)
California Supreme Court

The California high court ruled that Catholic Charities of Sacramento must cover birth control under its health plan.  This 6-1 ruling only affects 200 employees but might affect thousands around the state employed by church hospitals and schools.  The court found that the separately incorporated Charity was not a religious employer since it did religion neutral counseling and immigration assistance.  In order to avoid the ruling the Charity would need to drop it's prescription health plan.        Top


Class Action v Palm Beach Garden Med Ctr.

The judge in this class action law suit against the hospital for unsanitary conditions causing infections ordered the hospital to turn over the medical records of 740 former patients who were believed to have been infected between 1995 and 2002.  All records will be redacted as to identity.  The hospital lost the arguments that the order violated HIPAA and would be too hard to comply with.  The hospital was also ordered to answer questions pertaining to how many cardiac surgery patients developed post-operative infections and how many had second surgeries to correct the problem.  The hospital has not decided whether or not to appeal the rulings.  

Patients v Hutchinson

 The March 3, 2004, Wall Street Journal lead editorial discusses the sensationalistic journalism of the Seattle Times in reporting the facts from a slanted perspective in the series of articles regarding the patients who passed away at the Hutch possibly from their disease or possibly from the treatment.  The trial attorneys are now busy attempting to convince a jury that they should find the Hutch guilty using today's standards of informed consent versus those of the 1980s, when this occurred.  The Journal  had published the unbiased story of the incident but by then the damage had been done and the vulturous attorneys had already began to smell blood.  The Journal now hopes that the trial will not deter research in the future or lead to legislation which would take away the decision making process between the physician and the patient.

Patients v Maryland General Hospital
Not Yet Filed

Maryland General during a 14 month period ending in August 2003 may have given erroneous HIV and Hepatitis C reports to over 400 people.  The Board states they didn't know until January this year but they should have since their lab people edited the quality checks.  The hospital is now attempting to notify the people and have them repeat the exam at no cost to the patient.

The next day it was learned that a former hospital worker had told her supervisor of the problems a year ago.  This writing goes against the hospital's contention that they did not know about the problem until this year.  The former employee is now suing the hospital and her former boss for millions.  The suit was for not having safety elements in place to prevent blood splatter of HIV and Hepatitis C contaminated blood that occurred with the former employee.  This caused the former employee to contract the two diseases.  It sounds like mucho problemas for this hospital.       Top


MDs v Eastern Idaho Regional Med. Ctr.

The five physicians who will lose their privileges at the hospital for either not filing out a form stating whether or not they are investors of a specialty hospital or are actually investors have sued the hospital.  They are seeking a permanent injunction and revocation of the hospital's medical staff development plan.  Four of the five physician who lost privileges are investors and one is not but refused to fill out a form stating whether or not he had any interest in the hospital.  The physician include two of the three plastic surgeons in town and most of the orthopedic surgeons.  The revocation of the privileges was originally slated to begin March 1 but has been extended to June 30.  This may not be the best for the physicians as they can admit their patients to the new hospital and get off the ED roster of the offending hospital leaving them in the lurch for coverage.      

MDs v OhioHealth
Injunction Denied

The judge denied the physicians removed from the OhioHealth a temporary restraining order.  The law suit against the system is not affected by the order. 

Omar v Jewish Hosp. 
KY. Ct. App.

A physician was reported to the NPDB for resigning while under investigation.  The physician had resigned from the hospital prior to a meeting do discus a report critical of him.  He believed that he was not under investigation at the time of resignation but the court disagreed.  The court stated that the scrutiny prior to the meeting was an investigation.   

Arkansas Any Willing Provider Law 

A judge has agreed that Arkansas' any willing provider law is legal.  The state medical society has encouraged its physicians to begin to apply to all managed care organizations.  This is being appealed to the 8th Circuit. Top


Regional Hosp. v Madison County Hosp.
USDC Tenn.

The judge dismissed an antitrust suit by one hospital against another and it's parent system.  Regional alleged that its competitor signed exclusive contracts prohibiting insurers form doing business with it.  The judge issued his ruling based on Madison being a state actor and therefore immune from antitrust action.   Regional has decided to appeal the decision to the 6th Circuit. 

Southcross Surgical Center v Springs Memorial Hosp.

The not yet formed surgical center is suing the hospital for manipulation of the state regulatory system to block their center but to allow the hospital's to be built.  South Carolina has a Certificate of Need process.  The agency stated that the hospital's center was chosen because it was a more conservatively sized and less costly unit.       Top  


Mazurklewicz v Doylestown Hospital

The patient sued the hospital after being admitted from the ED for airway obstruction from a possible pharyngeal abscess.  After discharge she was seen in another hospital where the abscess was diagnosed and treated.  The judge ruled that the plain language of EMTALA states that the bona fide admission relieves the hospital of liability under the law.   

US v Southpointe Hospital

Southpointe Hospital in St. Louis has been fined the largest amount ever in an EMTALA case, $100,000.  There were four cases in which the hospital failed to properly screen, stabilize or appropriately transfer.  The hospital is owned by Tenet.        Top


US V St. David's
Hospital wins

After six years in the courts and millions of dollars spent by each side on legal and court costs St. David's has finally won out over the IRS.  St. David, a non-profit system, went in as equals with HCA, both contributing three hospitals to the union.  The IRS stated that the non-profit lost its tax exempt status because of the merger.  The appellate court agreed with the IRS and sent the case back to a jury.  The jury agreed with St. David and now we will see if the IRS will appeal again.

Massachusetts v Sturdy Memorial Hosp.
Mass. Supreme Ct.

The Supreme Court denied the tax exempt status of a combination for profit physician group and Sturdy Memorial Hospital.  This levied property taxes on the hospital for the years of affiliation with the physician group.        Top


Missouri v Hohl, RN

Nurse Hohl pled guilty of killing a 91 year old nursing home patient.  She was sentenced to 15 years in prison for second degree murder with no parole until 2016.  

US v Patel

Dr. Dipak Patel was sentenced to ten years in prison and repayment of $8.38 million in Medicare fraud.  Of course, he will never pay the money or go to prison since he has already fled and was tried and sentenced in absentia.        Top

Medical Records

US v San Francisco General Hospital

Attorney General Ashcroft will probably need to stay in the hospital as the courts continue to  disallow the Department of Justice access to medical records of women who have had partial birth abortion.  The San Francisco is the latest of a long line of decisions that have gone against the DOJ.   

The DOJ has now given up asking for records of the Planned Parenthood patients.   

Suesbury v Caceres

Suesbury was HIV + and following a auto accident was treated by another physician in the Caceres office, Dr. Miller.  The plaintiff claimed to Caceres that Miller had molested him during the visit.  Caceres investigated and wrote a memorandum to Miller about the incident.  This included information about the plaintiff's HIV status.  Miller had known about the status since Suesbury had told him during the office visit.  Nine years later Miller was arrested for sexually abusing a minor.  Caceres voluntarily gave the investigator a copy of the memo sent to Miller nine years previously. Suesbury sued Caceres for breach of confidentiality.  Caceres lost in the District and the Court of Appeal.  The memorandum was between two physicians in the same office who both knew about the HIV status and therefore nothing untoward was revealed.    Top


Thornton v Trident Med. Ctr.
SC Ct. App.

Trident recruited Thornton, a cardiovascular surgeon, from Michigan.  The contract was for four years with the usual incentives.  If Thornton did not stay the four years he would have to pay back certain monies.  Thornton left before the four year period and refused to pay back any money stating the agreement was unenforceable and the arbitration portion was not enforceable under South Carolina law.  The trial court agreed but the Ct. of Appeal didn't.  Since the recruiting crossed state lines the Federal Arbitration Act held.  The parties had to submit to binding arbitration.

Martell v Superior Ct. of San Bernardino
Ca. Ct. App.

A patient with Cigna insurance wanted to file for malpractice against several providers.  Cigna had a mandatory arbitration in the agreement between the plaintiff's employers and Cigna.  The trial court therefore ordered arbitration and this was overturned by the Ct. of Appeal.  There was no arbitration agreement between the providers and the patient since the providers were independent practitioners.  Cigna's contract had no authority to bind the providers.

Rose v Lake Norman Pediatrics
NC Ct. App.

Rose was hired by Lake Norman Pediatrics with the promise they would bring her in as a partner in one year.  After two years she still was not a partner and she along with another physician began planning their own office.  They did over 99% of the work on their own time and not clinic time.  When the Clinic found out about the two leaving they fired them. Rose sued for the clinic for wrongful termination her medical benefits under COBRA and breach of contract.  The trial court issued a directed verdict for the defendants and the Court of Appeal overturned the decision as there were triable issues of fact on all counts.  To trial.

Smith v Gentiva Health
USDC ED Michigan

Smith and another sued their former employer for retaliatory discharge after they refused to alter records and they reported the event.  The Court ruled that the hospital was not allowed to have summary judgment since there were disputed evidence of the facts. The moral is for employers to not dismiss employees for reporting wrongdoing.

Shah v Deaconess Hosp.
6th Circ.

 Shah, a general surgeon, did a head and neck case the went bad.  he was peer reviewed and lost his head and neck privileges.  He sued for age and national origin discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.  He lost in the District Court since he failed to show a prima facie case for discrimination and his dismissal of privileges was a pretext for discrimination.  Shah appealed to the 6th Circuit and lost again but for a different reason.  Shah was not an employee of Deaconess, but an independent contractor. This was consistent with three other federal Circuits  that also denied relief under discrimination for independent contractor physicians who had been denied hospital privileges.          Top


Yale Diagnostic Radiol. v Fountain
Conn. Supreme Ct.

In an interesting twist the Connecticut Supreme Court has allowed the minor patient to be sued after the parent refused to pay the bill for emergency services.  Fountain was shot in the head and was taken to the hospital for treatment and survived.  The mother refused to pay the bills and filed bankruptcy.  The minor sued the shooter claiming money for damages including that for medical care.  There was a settlement.  Yale moved the probate court for payment and was denied by the court.  The state trial court ruled for Yale stating that minors are liable for necessities and that emergency medical care is a necessity. The high court affirmed on the same reasoning.        Top 


DISCLAIMER: Although this article is updated periodically, it reflects the author's point of view at the time of publication. Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel before acting on any of the information presented.