Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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Defendants Michael Touchette and Centurion Healthcare brought an interlocutory appeal of a trial court's certification of a class of plaintiffs in a Vermont Rule 75 action. The certified class was comprised of people in the custody of the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC), each of whom suffered from opioid-use disorder, and alleged defendants’ medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program did not meet prevailing medical standards of care as required by Vermont law. Defendants, the former Commissioner of the DOC and its contract healthcare provider, argued the trial court erred both in finding that plaintiff Patrick Mullinnex exhausted his administrative remedies before filing suit, and in adopting the vicarious-exhaustion doctrine favored by several federal circuits in order to conclude that Mullinnex’s grievances satisfied the exhaustion requirement on behalf of the entire class. Defendants also contended the trial court’s decision to certify the class was made in error because plaintiffs did not meet Rule 23’s numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy-of- representation requirements. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed, concluding that - even if the vicarious-exhaustion doctrine was appropriately applied in Vermont - it could not apply in this case because, on the record before the trial court, no member of the putative class succeeded in exhausting his administrative remedies. Because plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust left the courts without subject-matter jurisdiction, the Supreme Court did not reach defendants’ challenges to the merits of the class-certification decision. View "Mullinnex et al . v. Menard et al." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from 532 product-liability claims filed against Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. and Roche Laboratories Inc. (collectively Roche), corporations with their principal places of business in New Jersey. Roche developed, manufactured, marketed, and labeled Accutane, a prescription medication for the treatment of severe and persistent cases of acne. Plaintiffs alleged Accutane caused them to contract inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and that Roche failed to give adequate label warnings to advise them of the known risks of the medication. At issue for the New Jersey Supreme Court was : (1) what law governed whether Roche’s label warnings were adequate (the law of each of the 45 jurisdictions in which plaintiffs were prescribed and took Accutane or the law of New Jersey where the 532 cases are consolidated); and (2) the adequacy of the label warnings for the period after April 2002. The Court found that because Roche’s warnings received the approval of the FDA, they enjoyed a “rebuttable presumption” of adequacy under New Jersey’s Products Liability Act (PLA). The Court reversed all cases in which the Appellate Division reinstated plaintiffs’ actions against Roche. "New Jersey has the most significant interests, given the consolidation of the 532 cases for MCL purposes. New Jersey’s interest in consistent, fair, and reliable outcomes cannot be achieved by applying a diverse quilt of laws to so many cases that share common issues of fact. Plaintiffs have not overcome the PLA’s presumption of adequacy for medication warnings approved by the FDA. As a matter of law, the warnings provided physicians with adequate information to warn their patients of the risks of IBD." As a result, the 532 failure-to-warn cases brought by plaintiffs against Roche were dismissed. View "Accutane Litigation" on Justia Law

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Artur Hefczyc appealed an order denying his motion for class certification in his lawsuit against Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego (Rady). On behalf of a proposed class, Hefczyc sought declaratory relief to establish that Rady's form contract, signed by patients or guarantors of patients who receive emergency room care, authorized Rady to charge only for the reasonable value of its services, and that Rady therefore was not authorized to bill self-pay patients based on its master list of itemized charge rates, commonly referred to as the "Chargemaster" schedule of rates, which Hefczyc alleged was "artificial" and "grossly inflated." The trial court denied Hefczyc's motion for class certification, concluding that the class was not ascertainable, that common issues did not predominate, and that class action litigation was not a superior means of proceeding. Hefczyc contends that the trial court erred in denying class certification because, as the complaint sought only declaratory relief, the motion for class certification was brought under the equivalent of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 23(b)(1)(A) or (b)(2) (28 U.S.C.), for which he was not required to establish the ascertainability of the class, that common issues predominated and that class action litigation was a superior means of proceeding. Hefczyc also contended that even if the trial court properly imposed those three requirements in this action, the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that those requirements were not met. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that Hefczyc's arguments lacked merit, and accordingly affirmed the order denying class certification. View "Hefczyz v. Rady Children's Hosp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Paul Kendall's second amended complaint made several types of class-wide claims that challenged the billing and collection practices of the health facility operating an emergency room where he received care, defendant and respondent Scripps Health (Scripps). Kendall contended that "selfpay" patients, who signed a form during the reception process at the emergency room (an "Agreement for Services at a Scripps Facility"), were being unfairly billed under that contractual agreement at prescribed rates that are listed on a publicly available "charge description master" (Charge Master). This appeal arose out of the trial court's order denying Kendall's motion to certify a proposed class of self-pay patients for the pursuit of two overriding legal theories that applied to both the declaratory relief and statutory claims. Scripps opposed the motion, arguing a class action was not shown to be an appropriate method to pursue the case because of a lack of predominant common issues and of any convincing showing of an ability to ascertain the identity of all the proposed class members. The trial court denied the motion for class certification, concluding that Kendall had not presented any substantial evidence showing there were predominant common issues of law and fact among the putative class members. On appeal, Kendall contends the trial court's order denying class certification of his statutory claims reflects the use of improper criteria and an incorrect legal analysis. Finding no abuse of discretion or lack of substantial evidence, the Court of Appeal affirmed the order denying class certification. View "Kendall v. Scripps Health" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that an attorney authorized by his or her client in writing via a HIPAA release form to obtain the client’s health care records is a “person authorized by the patient” under Wis. Stat. 146.83(3f)(b)4.-5. and is therefore exempt from paying certification charges and retrieval fees under these subdivisions. Accordingly, the Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals in this class action lawsuit, holding that Plaintiff’s attorney was a “person authorized by the patient” and was therefore exempt from the certification charge and retrieval fee for obtaining copies of Plaintiff’s health care records. View "Moya v. Healthport Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this complaint filed against Robinson Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC and related entities (collectively, Robinson), the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order granting class certification in part and reversed it in part. Andrew Phillips filed a first amended class-action complaint challenging Robinson’s business practice of chronic understaffing. Robinson appealed the order granting class certification, arguing that Phillips did not meet his burden of proving commonality, predominance, typicality, and superiority, and that the class definition was overbroad. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) properly granted class certification as to Phillips’s claims of breach of contract, Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA), and unjust enrichment; and (2) abused its discretion in certifying the class action as to Phillips’s negligence claim. View "Robinson Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, LLC v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield provides health insurance products and services to approximately 3.7 million members. Two laptop computers, containing sensitive personal information about members, were stolen from Horizon. Four plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of themselves and other Horizon customers whose personal information was stored on those laptops, alleging willful and negligent violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681, and numerous violations of state law. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of Article III standing. According to the court, none of the plaintiffs had claimed a cognizable injury because, although their personal information had been stolen, none of them had adequately alleged that the information was actually used to their detriment. The Third Circuit vacated. In light of the congressional decision to create a remedy for the unauthorized transfer of personal information, a violation of FCRA gives rise to an injury sufficient for Article III standing purposes. Even without evidence that the plaintiffs’ information was in fact used improperly, the alleged disclosure of their personal information created a de facto injury. View "In re: Horizon Healthcare Inc. Data Breach Litigation" on Justia Law

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According to the complaint, Dustin Limberg sought emergency department care and treatment at Sanford Medical Center Fargo. He did not have insurance and was asked to sign, and did sign, Sanford's "Statement of Financial Responsibility and Release of Information" form ("the contract"). After receiving his bill for the visit, Limberg filed a class action lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that Sanford's billing practices were unfair, unconscionable, or unreasonable because the contract contained an "open price" term. He claimed the term "all charges" as referenced in the Sanford contract was ambiguous and he and the class were liable to Sanford only for the reasonable value of the treatment and services provided to them. Sanford moved for dismissal, which the district court granted. Limberg appealed. On appeal, he argued the district court should not have dismissed the case. Because the district court appropriately dismissed the case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Limberg v. Sanford Medical Center Fargo" on Justia Law

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Blue Cross controls more than 60% of the Michigan commercial health insurance market; its patients are more profitable for hospitals than are patients insured by Medicare or Medicaid. BC enjoys “extraordinary market power.” The Justice Department (DOJ) claimed that BC used that power to require MFN agreements: BC would raise its reimbursement rates for services, if a hospital agreed to charge other commercial insurers rates at least as high as charged to BC. BC obtained MFN agreements with 40 hospitals and MFN-plus agreements with 22 hospital systems. Under MFN-plus, the greater the spread between BC's rates and the minimum rates for other insurers, the higher the rates that BC would pay. Class actions, (consolidated) followed the government’s complaint, alleging damages of more than $13.7 billion, and seeking treble damages under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C 15. In 2013, Michigan banned MFN clauses; DOJ dismissed its suit. During discovery in the private actions, plaintiffs hired an antitrust expert, Leitzinger. BC moved to exclude Leitzinger’s report and testimony. Materials relating to that motion and to class certification were filed under seal, although the report does not discuss patient information. BC agreed to pay $30 million, about one-quarter of Leitzinger's estimate, into a settlement fund and not to oppose requests for fees, costs, and named-plaintiff “incentive awards,” within specified limits. After these deductions, $14,661,560 would be allocated among three-to-seven-million class members. Class members who sought to examine the court record or the bases for the settlement found that most key documents were heavily redacted or sealed. The court approved the settlement and denied the objecting class members’ motion to intervene. The Seventh Circuit vacated, stating that the court compounded its error in sealing the documents when it approved the settlement without meaningful scrutiny of its fairness to unnamed class members . View "Shane Group, Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mich." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action alleging that the fees Defendant charged for providing copies of their medical records and billing statements were excessive in violation of Iowa Code 622.10(6). Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, alleging that section 622.10(6) did not apply to it because it was not a provider under the statute. The district court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an entity that acts as a provider’s agent in fulfilling records requests covered by section 622.10(6) cannot charge more for producing the requested records than the provider itself could legally charge; and (2) the well-pleaded facts in the petition indicated that Defendant acted as an agent of the providers by fulfilling the records requests on their behalf, and therefore, the district court was correct in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ petition. View "Young v. Healthport Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law