Articles Posted in Health Law

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Respondent hired a law firm to investigate a potential malpractice claim against a nursing home. The law firm made a request to the hospital owned by Petitioner for a copy of Respondent’s medical records. Petitioners sent an invoice to the law firm demanding $4,463.43 plus sales tax and shipping costs for the medical records. The law firm paid the invoice. Troubled by the allegedly excessive amount of the invoice, however, the law firm filed suit against Petitioners in the name of the client. The circuit court found that Respondent could pursue a claim for the allegedly excessive costs of the medical records. The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition to Petitioners and directed the circuit court to dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice, holding that because Respondent did not pay the invoice and suffered no personal loss caused by the allegedly illegal fee, Respondent could not show an injury in fact. Therefore, Respondent did not have standing to pursue the lawsuit. View "State ex rel. Healthport Technologies, LLC v. Honorable James C. Stucky" on Justia Law

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Domestic Violence Survivors’ Support Group, Inc. (DVCC), a non-profit corporation that provides counseling services to victims of domestic violence, applied for a behavioral health center license. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification (OHFLAC) denied the application for licensure on the ground that DVCC does not employ a licensed counselor. The circuit court affirmed the administrative decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that OHFLAC’s interpretation of its administrative rule as requiring all professional counselors to be professionally licensed was contrary to the statutory and regulatory schemes. Remanded. View "Domestic Violence Survivors' Support Group, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources" on Justia Law

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After a hearing, the mental hygiene commissioner found probable cause to believe that Petitioner was mentally ill and a danger to self or to others due to mental illness. The commissioner directed Petitioner’s commitment for examination at a local mental health facility. Petitioner was subsequently involuntarily committed to Highland Hospital for evaluation. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that her mental health commitment was unlawful. The circuit court denied Petitioner a writ of habeas corpus on the basis that her cause was mooted by her release from her involuntary hospitalization. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that this habeas matter is moot. View "In re Involuntary Hospitalization of T.O." on Justia Law

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On June 11, 2013, Louk, then 37 weeks pregnant, injected methamphetamine into her arm. A few hours later,. Louk experienced breathing problems and went to Summersville Hospital. Dr. Lester treated Louk and testified that Louk presented to the emergency room with acute respiratory distress which was caused by her methamphetamine use. Due to concerns about the fetus being deprived of oxygen, Dr. Rostocki performed an emergency Cesarean section and delivered the child, Olivia Louk, who was born “essentially brain dead.” Olivia “had no movement, no spontaneous respirations, and they had to immediately put her on a ventilator to help her breathe.” Olivia died 11 days after she was born. Louk was convicted of child neglect resulting in death, W.Va. Code 61-8D-4a [1997], and sentenced to three to fifteen years of incarceration. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed. The child neglect resulting in death statute is not intended to criminalize a mother’s prenatal act that results in harm to her subsequently born child. Recognizing “that there may be significant policy implications and social ramifications surrounding the present issue,” the court confined its review to the plain language of the statute. View "West Virginia v. Louk" on Justia Law

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Stephanie Mills had a thyroidectomy, performed by Dr. Ghaphery at Wheeling Hospital. Mills’s nerves surrounding her thyroid gland were severed during the thyroidectomy, resulting in bilateral vocal cord paralysis. Mills filed suit against Dr. Ghaphery, A.D. Ghaphery Professional Association, and Wheeling Hospital, Inc. (collectively, Wheeling Hospital), alleging medical negligence, lack of informed consent, and negligent credentialing. Mills sought discovery of certain documents from Wheeling Hospital. When the Hospital failed to respond to the discovery requests, Mills filed a motion to compel. The circuit court ordered the majority of the disputed documents to be disclosed. Wheeling Hospital sought a writ of prohibition to preclude enforcement of the circuit court’s order, asserting that the disputed documents were protected by the statutory peer review privilege. The Supreme Court granted as moulded the requested writ, holding (1) certain of the challenged documents, including those comprising Dr. Ghaphery’s request to renew his staff privilege, are specifically protected by the peer review privilege; and (2) the circuit court did not conduct a thorough in camera review of the remaining challenged documents, and Wheeling Hospital did not provide a sufficiently detailed privilege log to permit the circuit court to determine whether such documents are protected by the peer review privilege. View "State ex rel. Wheeling Hosp., Inc. v. Hon. Wilson" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a circuit court order directing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (DHHR) to restore access without limitation to patient and patient records to patient advocates working at Sharpe and Bateman Hospitals, the State’s two psychiatric hospitals. The DHHR appealed, arguing that the circuit court order violated both the patients’ constitutional rights to privacy and the Federal Health Insurance Portability and accountability Act (HIPAA). The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision to restore the access afforded to the patient advocates to the level they experienced prior to June 2014, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that the DHRR’s revocation of patient advocate access to patients, staff, and patient records absent express consent did not violate state law. View "W. Va. Dep’t of Health & Human Res. v. E.H." on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law

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This institutional reform litigation began in 1981 when a group of patients filed a mandamus action seeking judicial intervention for deplorable conditions in West Virginia’s mental institutions. In these consolidated appeals, Petitioner, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (“the DHHR”), sought relief from two 2014 orders of the circuit court. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in refusing to certify its prior rulings on appeal as partial final judgments; (2) did not exceed its authority under the separation of powers doctrine and West Virginia precedent by compelling the DHHR to comply with an agreed order entered in 2009 through the immediate implementation of a pay raise restructuring plan at two state mental health hospitals; and (3) did not abuse its discretion by compelling the DHHR to develop a plan that included the means to increase salaries of existing direct care employees, as required by the 2009 agreed order. View "W. Va. Dep’t of Health & Human Res. v. E.H." on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law

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Plaintiff, individually on and behalf of the Estate of Sharon Hanna (the decedent), brought an action against HCR ManorCare, LLC and other entities and individuals engaged in the operation of nursing homes and assisted living facilities (collectively, ManorCare) alleging that the decedent died as a result of substandard care she received at Heartland of Charleston, a ManorCare nursing home. This appeal concerned Plaintiff’s request for production seeking “Center Visit Summaries,” which concerned the treatment of patients at Heartland during the decedent’s residency, and “Briefing Packets,” which consisted of reports and meeting minutes received by the board of directors of each ManorCare corporate entity relating to the decedent’s residency at Heartland. The circuit court directed ManorCare to produce the documents requested. Defendants asked the Supreme Court for relief in prohibition to prevent the enforcement of the circuit court’s orders. The Supreme Court granted the requested relief as moulded, holding (1) ManorCare’s requested relief concerning the Center Visit Summaries was without merit; but (2) the circuit court exceeded its jurisdiction in ordering the production of the board of director Briefing Packets, as the court should have conducted an in camera proceeding to make an independent determination as to whether the Briefing Packets were excluded from discovery pursuant to the attorney-client privilege. View "State ex rel. HCR Manorcare, LLC v. Hon. Stucky" on Justia Law

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Twenty-nine individual Respondents filed eight separate civil actions alleging that Petitioners - three pharmacies and a physician - and other medical providers negligently prescribed and dispensed controlled substances causing Respondents to become addicted to and abuse the controlled substances. Petitioners moved for summary judgment asserting that Respondents’ claims were barred as a matter of law on the basis of Respondents’ admissions of their own criminal activity associated with the prescription and dispensation of controlled substances by Petitioners. Specifically, Petitioners maintained that Respondents’ actions were barred by the “wrongful conduct” rule and/or the doctrine of in pari delicto. The circuit court concluded that the actions were not barred but certified questions regarding the issue to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that any wrongdoing on the part of Respondents must be assessed under the Court’s precepts of comparative negligence and does not per se operate as a complete bar to Respondents’ causes of action. View "Tug Valley Pharmacy, LLC v. All Plaintiffs Below" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was charged with first degree murder and found mentally incompetent to stand trial. Petitioner subsequently requested a bench trial to give him the opportunity to establish defenses to the charged offense. At the conclusion of a hearing held pursuant to W. Va. Code 27-6A-6, the trial court ruled that the evidence adduced, were it to go to trial, could result in a verdict of second degree murder. The court determined that it retained jurisdiction over Petitioner for forty years based on the maximum sentence specified for a conviction of second degree murder and remanded him to the custody of William R. Sharpe Hospital for the duration of that period of time. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court, holding (1) Petitioner was not unconstitutionally denied his right to a jury trial because the right to a jury trial does not attach to a hearing requested pursuant to section 27-6A-6; and (2) the evidence presented at the hearing was sufficient for the trial court to rule that the State had demonstrated Petitioner committed second degree murder for commitment purposes. View "State v. Gum" on Justia Law