Justia California Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeal affirming the finding of the City of San Diego that adoption of an ordinance authorizing the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries and regulating their location and operation did not constitute a project, holding that the court of appeal misapplied the test for determining whether a proposed activity has the potential to cause environmental change under Cal. Pub. Res. Code 21065. The City did not conduct any environmental review when adopting the ordinance, finding that adoption of the ordinance did not constitute a project for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act, Cal. Pub. Res. Code 21000 et seq. (CEQA). Petitioner filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the City's failure to conduct CEQA review. The trial court denied the petition. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the City correctly concluded that the ordinance was not a project because it did not have the potential to cause a physical change in the environment. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further findings, holding that the City erred in determining that the adoption of the Ordinance was not a project. View "Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the district attorney prosecuting a civil commitment petition under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), Cal. Well. & Inst. Code 660-6609.3, may obtain copies of the treatment records supporting updated or replacement evaluators’ opinions about an individual’s suitability for designation as an SVP and whether those records may be shared with a mental health expert retained by the district attorney to assist in the prosecution of the SVP petition. The Orange County District Attorney filed a petition to commit Richard Anthony Smith as an SVP. The SDSH performed updated and replacement evaluations and concluded that Smith no longer qualified as an SVP. Ultimately, the trial court denied the request of the district attorney asking for an order permitting his retained expert to review the SDSH evaluations. The Court of Appeals, however, directed the trial court to vacate its order and enter a new order granting the request. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a recent amendment to the SVPA allows the district court to obtain otherwise confidential records, and the district court may then disclose those records to its retained expert, subject to an appropriate protective order, to assist in the cross-examination of the SDSH evaluators or mental health professionals retained by the defense and in prosecuting the SVP petition. View "People v. Superior Court of Orange County" on Justia Law

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Defendant was found incompetent to stand trial and was involuntarily committed for three years. Defendant was never made the subject of a conservatorship. Shortly after his release, the district court obtained a superseding indictment with identical charges under a new case number, as permitted by Cal. Penal Code 1387. When Defendant was rearrested under the new indictment, he argued that because he had already been committed for the three years authorized by Cal. Penal Code 1370(c), the trial court lacked the authority to order his rearrest. The Supreme Court held (1) defendants in Defendant’s position can be rearrested on charges that are refiled under 1387; but (2) if the trial court again determines that a defendant is not competent to stand trial, the defendant may be recommitted only for a period not exceeding the remaining balance, if any, of the three years authorized by section 1370(c). View "Jackson v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Medical Board of California did not violate patients’ right to privacy under Cal. Const. art. I, 1 when it obtained data from the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), California’s prescription drug monitoring program, without a warrant or subpoena supported by good cause during the course of investigating the patients’ physician, Dr. Alwin Carl Lewis. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal, which determined that the Board’s actions did not involve a significant intrusion on a privacy interest protected by the state Constitution’s privacy provision and, even if there was an invasion of privacy, it was justified. The Supreme Court held that even assuming the Board’s actions constituted a serious intrusion on a legally protected privacy interest, its review of Lewis’s patients’ CURES records was justified by the state’s dual interest in protecting the public from the unlawful use and diversion of a particularly dangerous class of prescription drugs and protecting patients from negligent or incompetent physicians. View "Lewis v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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If a patient who receives emergency medical services is an enrollee in a health care service plan, the plan is required to reimburse the emergency service provider for essential emergency medical services and care. Plans are statutorily permitted to delegate this financial responsibility to their contracting medical providers. Here the defendants - health care service plans - delegated their emergency services financial responsibility to their contractor medical providers, three individual practice associations (“IPAs”). The IPAs failed to reimburse the plaintiff noncontracting service providers for the emergency care that they provided to enrollees of the defendant health plans. When the IPAs went out of business, the plaintiff providers brought actions seeking reimbursement from the defendants. The Supreme Court held (1) a health care service plan may be liable to noncontracting emergency service providers for negligently delegating its financial responsibility to an IPA or other contracting medical provider group that it knew or should have known would not be able to pay for emergency service and care provided to the health plan’s enrollees; and (2) a health care service plan has a narrow continuing common law tort duty to protect noncontracting emergency service providers once it makes an initial delegation of its financial responsibility. View "Centinela Freeman Emergency Medical Associates v. Health Net of California" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Health Law

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In 1998, Defendant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI) to one count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and was committed to Napa State Hospital. In 2011, the Santa Clara County District Attorney petitioned to extend Defendant’s commitment a fourth time. Defendant opposed an extension of his commitment, and defense counsel requested a bench trial. After a bench trial, the trial court entered an order extending Defendant’s commitment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court must advise an NGI defendant personally of his or her right to a jury trial and, before holding a bench trial, must obtain a personal waiver of that right from the defendant unless the court finds that the defendant lacks the capacity to make a knowing and voluntary waiver, in which case defense counsel controls the waiver decision; and (2) the trial court in this case erred in conducting a bench trial that extended Defendant’s commitment because the court did not advise Defendant of his right to a jury trial, did not obtain Defendant’s personal waiver of that right, and did not find substantial evidence that Defendant lacked the capacity to make a knowing and voluntary waiver. Remanded. View "People v. Tran" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Defendant was declared a mentally disordered offender and committed to Atascadero State Hospital as a condition of parole. In 2011, the Santa Clara County District Attorney filed a third petition to extend Defendant’s commitment. Defendant opposed an extension of his commitment, and defense counsel requested a bench trial. After a bench trial, the trial court extended Defendant’s commitment. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court committed prejudicial error by failing to advise him of the right to a jury trial and by conducting a bench trial without first obtaining his personal waiver of that right. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in conducting a bench trial that extended Defendant’s commitment, as (1) the statutory scheme that governs mentally disordered offender commitment proceedings expressly provides for advisement and waiver of the right to a jury trial; and (2) the trial court did not advise Defendant of his right to a jury trial in this case, did not obtain Defendant’s personal waiver of that right, and did not find that Defendant lacked the capacity to make a knowing and voluntary waiver. Remanded. View "People v. Blackburn" on Justia Law

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The Center for Investigative Reporting filed a Public Records Act request for copies of all citations issued by the Department of Public Health (DPH) to the long-term health care facilities the Center was investigating. The DPH disclosed heavily redacted copies of the citations it had issued to the facilities, asserting that Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5328 obligated it not to release confidential information obtained in the course of providing services to mentally ill and developmentally disabled individuals. The trial court determined that the Long-Term Care, Health, Safety, and Security Act's mandate that DPH citations be made public with minimal redaction trumped section 5328’s confidentiality provisions. The Court of Appeal vacated the judgment of the trial court and ordered DPH to disclose such information as the Court of Appeal deemed consistent with the common purpose of both statutes while permitting DPH to redact such information as the court deemed inconsistent with that common purpose. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions for the Court of Appeal to deny the petition, holding that DPH citations issued under the Act are public records and must be disclosed to the Center subject only to the specific redactions mandated by the Act. View "State Dep’t of Pub. Health v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for negligence and premises liability, as well as battery. At issue was whether patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease are liable for injuries they inflict on health care workers hired to care for them at home. California and other jurisdictions have established the rule that Alzheimer's patients are not liable for injuries to caregivers in institutional settings. The court concluded that the same rule applies to in-home caregivers who, like their institutional counterparts, are employed specifically to assist these disabled persons; it is a settled principle that those hired to manage a hazardous condition may not sue their clients for injuries caused by the very risks they were retained to confront; the court's opinion is consistent with the strong public policy against confining the disabled in institutions; and the court encouraged the Legislature to focus its attention on the problems associated with Alzheimer's caregiving. View "Gregory v. Cott" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law, Injury Law

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Plaintiff, a hospital staff physician, claimed the hospital’s decision to terminate his staff privileges was an act of retaliation for his reports of substandard performance by hospital nurses and thus a violation of Cal. Health & Safety Code 1278.5. Defendants moved to dismiss on grounds that Plaintiff could not bring a civil suit under section 1278.5 unless he first succeeded by mandamus in overturning the hospital’s action. The appellate court held that Plaintiff could pursue his claims based on section 1278.5 even though he had not previously sought and obtained a mandamus judgment against the hospital’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a physician’s claim that a hospital decision to restrict or terminate his or her staff privileges was an act of retaliation for his or her whistleblowing in furtherance of patient care and safety need not seek and obtain a mandamus petition to overturn the decision before filing a civil action under section 1278.5. View "Fahlen v. Sutter Cent. Valley Hosps." on Justia Law