Justia California Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Health Law
Conservatorship of K.P.
The Supreme Court held that capacity or willingness to accept treatment is a relevant factor to be considered on the issue of grave disability but is not a separate element that must be proven to establish a conservatorship.Under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5000 et seq., those subject to a conservatorship petition are entitled to a court or jury trial to decide if they are "gravely disabled." At issue was whether the trier of fact must additionally find that the individual is unwilling or unable to accept treatment voluntarily. The jury in this case found that K.P. was gravely disabled and granted a petition to renew K.P.'s conservatorship. The court of appeal affirmed. On appeal, K.P. claimed that a finding of unwillingness or inability to accept voluntary treatment was required for a conservatorship to be established. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that inability or unwillingness to accept voluntary treatment need not be separately proven at trial. View "Conservatorship of K.P." on Justia Law
Jarman v. HCR ManorCare, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that the monetary cap of $500 in statutory damages in Cal. Health & Safety Code 1430(b) applies per action, not per regulatory violation.Section 1430(b) gives a current or former nursing care patient or resident the right to bring a private cause of action against a skilled nursing facility for violating certain regulations. The remedies include injunctive relief, attorney fees, and up to $500 in statutory damages. Plaintiff in the instant case filed a complaint against a nursing facility alleging violations of the Patients Bill of Rights, elder abuse and neglect, and negligence. The jury awarded Plaintiff $100,000 in damages and $95,500 in statutory damages - $250 for each of 382 violations. At issue on appeal was whether the $500 cap is the limit in each action or instead applies to each violation committed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 1430(b) authorizes a $500 per lawsuit cap. View "Jarman v. HCR ManorCare, Inc." on Justia Law
In re Conservatorship of O.B.
The Supreme Court held that when reviewing a finding that a fact has been proved by clear and convincing evidence, the appellate court must view the record in light most favorable to the prevailing party below and give due deference to how the trier of fact may have evaluated the credibility of witnesses, resolved conflicts in the evidence, and drawn reasonable inferences from the evidence.A probate court appointed limited coconservators for O.B., a young woman with autism. O.B. challenged the order, arguing that the proof did not clearly and convincingly establish that a limited conservatorship was warranted. The court of appeal rejected O.B.'s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, concluding that the clear and convincing standard of proof "disappears" on appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that when reviewing a finding of fact that has been proved by clear and convincing evidence, the appellate court must determine whether the record as a whole contains substantial evidence from which a reasonable fact-finder could have found it highly probable that the fact was true. View "In re Conservatorship of O.B." on Justia Law
Saint Francis Memorial Hospital v. State Department of Public Health
The Supreme Court held that equitable tolling can lessen the otherwise strict time limit on the availability of writs of administrative mandate under Cal. Gov't Code 11523.The State Department of Public Health (the Department) imposed a fine on Saint Francis Memorial Hospital when it learned that doctors left a surgical sponge in a patient during a surgery. The Department later denied Saint Francis's request for reconsideration. Eleven days after the Department denied reconsideration but forty-one days after being served with the Department's final decision Saint Francis filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandate.The Department demurred on the ground that the petition was untimely under section 11523. The superior court sustained the Department's demurrer, reasoning that Saint Francis's petition was time-barred and that Saint Francis's mistake about the availability of reconsideration was not a sufficient basis to excuse a late filing. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeal's judgment, holding (1) equitable tolling may apply to petitions filed under section 11523; and (2) because the court of appeal didn't address equitable tolling's third element, the case is remanded for further proceedings. View "Saint Francis Memorial Hospital v. State Department of Public Health" on Justia Law
Mathews v. Becerra
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the judgment of the trial court dismissing this complaint filed by Plaintiffs, two therapists and one counselor, alleging that the basic norm of confidentiality protected by the psychotherapist-patient privilege applies to admissions by certain patients of downloading or electronically viewing child pornography, holding that Plaintiffs asserted a cognizable privacy interest under the California Constitution and that their complaint survived demurrer.Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that the 2014 amendment to Cal. Pen. Code 11165.1(c)(3), which requires Plaintiffs to report to law enforcement and child welfare authorities patients who have admitted to downloading or electronically viewing child pornography, violated their patents' right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Cal. Const. art. I, 1. Defendants filed demurrers, arguing that Plaintiffs failed to establish a valid constitutional privacy claim. The trial court dismissed the complaint, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs' allegations satisfied the threshold inquiry for a cognizable privacy claim. View "Mathews v. Becerra" on Justia Law
Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego
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
People v. Superior Court of Orange County
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
Jackson v. Superior Court
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
Lewis v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County
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
Centinela Freeman Emergency Medical Associates v. Health Net of California
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