Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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Dolin was prescribed Paxil, the brand-name version of the drug paroxetine, to treat his depression. The prescription was filled with a generic paroxetine product. Six days later, Dolin died by suicide. Federal law preempted an "inadequate labeling" state-law claim against the generic manufacturer. Mrs. Dolin sued GSK, the manufacturer of brand-name Paxil, arguing that GSK was responsible for the labeling for all paroxetine, no matter who made and sold it, and had negligently omitted an adult suicide risk. The Seventh Circuit reversed her jury verdict, based on preemption, citing the complex regulation of drug labels and of Paxil/paroxetine’s label in particular. GSK had attempted to change the Paxil label in 2007 to add an adult suicide warning. The FDA rejected that change. The court concluded that GSK lacked new information after 2007 that would have allowed it to add an adult-suicidality warning under the existing regulations. Eight days after denying Dolin certiorari, the Supreme Court decided another case, further explaining the “clear evidence” standard for impossibility preemption for prescription drug labels. Dolin filed an unsuccessful motion under FRCP 60(b)(6), arguing that the 2018 judgment should be set aside based on a change in law so that GSK could not establish its defense of impossibility preemption. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and did not impose sanctions. The Supreme Court provided important guidance but did not break new ground that would change the result in Dolin’s case. Her motion was not frivolous. View "Dolin v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC" on Justia Law

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Martin, a 67-year-old woman, sought Social Security Disability benefits. Her persistent back pain stems from two car accidents; she also suffers from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and PTSD. These conditions caused Martin to stop working in 2009. Before then she had worked as a home health aide, data entry clerk, and administrative assistant. An ALJ determined that Martin’s severe impairments left her capable of performing only a limited range of sedentary jobs. The district court remanded for a more thorough consideration of Martin’s mental health problems. A new ALJ then found that Martin had no physical limitations whatsoever and declined to award benefits. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding the second ALJ’s decision not supported by substantial evidence, and took “the rare step of ordering the award of benefits.” The court rejected Martin’s argument that the ALJ’s residual functional capacity determination failed to translate her mental health symptoms into limitations related to concentration, persistence, and pace but the record is clear that Martin’s physical limitations leave her unable to perform any work above the light level. Given her restricted range of motion and symptoms of pain, light exertion would likely be a challenge for Martin because it requires “a good deal of walking or standing.” View "Martin v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The Drug Enforcement Administration investigated Dr. Ley and his opioid addiction treatment company, DORN, conducted undercover surveillance, and decided Ley did not have a legitimate medical purpose in prescribing Suboxone. Indiana courts issued warrants, culminating in arrests of four physicians and one nurse and seven non-provider DORN employees. Indiana courts dismissed the charges against the non-providers and the nurse. Ley was acquitted; the state dismissed the charges against the remaining providers. DORN’s providers and non-provider employees sued, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, and civil conspiracy. The district court entered summary judgment for the defendants, holding probable cause supported the warrants at issue. The Seventh Circuit affirmed as to every plaintiff except Mackey, a part-time parking lot attendant. One of Ley’s former patients died and that individual’s family expressed concerns about Ley; other doctors voiced concerns, accusing Ley of prescribing Suboxone for pain to avoid the 100-patient limit and bring in more revenue. At least one pharmacy refused to fill DORN prescriptions. Former patients reported that they received their prescriptions without undergoing any physical exam. DORN physicians prescribed an unusually high amount of Suboxone; two expert doctors opined that the DORN physicians were not prescribing Suboxone for a legitimate medical purpose. There was evidence that the non-provider employees knew of DORN’s use of pre-signed prescriptions and sometimes distributed them. There were, however, no facts alleged in the affidavit that Mackey was ever armed, impeded investigations, handled money, or possessed narcotics. View "Vierk v. Whisenand" on Justia Law

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States may provide certain home-based services through Medicaid's Home and Community Based Waiver program, 42 U.S.C. 1396n(c). Illinois operates a waiver under which it contracts with non-profit organizations (ISCs) to provide case management services for adults with developmental disabilities receiving home- and community-based services as part of Medicaid. Illinois awarded 17 ISC contracts through a non-competitive, annual renewal process. The plaintiffs had received contracts for at least 25 years. In 2018, the state announced a new competitive bidding process to begin on July 1, 2019. The plaintiffs submitted bids but learned in January that their contracts would not be renewed. They sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of Medicaid’s free-choice-of-provider provision, 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(23). On June 5, 2019, with new contracts to go into effect in less than 30 days, they sought a preliminary injunction. The district court denied their motion on June 25, reasoning that ISCs were not “qualified providers” under the statute. The plaintiffs appealed that same day. Four days later, they sought emergency injunctive relief pending appeal, which the Seventh Circuit denied. Months later, at oral argument, plaintiffs’ counsel acknowledged that vacating the new contracts would be too disruptive. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal. With the plaintiffs no longer challenging the denial of their preliminary injunction, it is unnecessary to address the meaning of “qualified providers” or determine what kinds of services the plaintiffs provide. The passage of time has rendered the issue moot. View "Western Illinois Service Coordination v. Illinois Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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Stewart sustained serious injuries upon crashing his car while driving under the influence. Although Stewart does not remember his time at the hospital he signed a form consenting to treatment. An emergency room doctor treated Stewart and in doing so ordered a blood draw, which confirmed that he had been drinking. The police requested and received the blood test results from the hospital’s medical staff. Stewart later sued both officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating the Fourth Amendment by obtaining his test results without a warrant and the hospital’s medical staff for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act by disclosing the results. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Indiana law requires medical staff who test a person’s blood “for diagnostic purposes” to “disclose the results of the test to a law enforcement officer who requests the … results as a part of a criminal investigation” regardless of whether the person has “consented to or otherwise authorized their release.” HIPAA does not confer individual enforcement rights—express or implied. The police officers did not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. View "Stewart v. Parkview Hospital" on Justia Law

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Reed alleged that she suffered discrimination on the basis of her disabilities while she was a patient at Columbia in March 2012. She contends that the hospital failed to accommodate her disabilities by deliberately withholding from her a device she used to speak and discriminated against her by putting her in a “seclusion” room to punish her, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12181, the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794, and the Wisconsin Mental Health Act. The district court granted the hospital summary judgment, holding that the hospital did not need to comply with Title III of the ADA because it fell within the Act’s exemption for entities controlled by religious organizations and that the hospital’s alleged mistreatment of Reed was not premised solely on Reed’s disability. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The hospital raised its religious exemption affirmative defense to the ADA claims for the first time after discovery, in its motion for summary judgment; it was an abuse of discretion to excuse the hospital’s failure to raise this affirmative defense earlier. Reed’s Rehabilitation Act claims depend on disputed facts. View "Reed v. Columbia St. Mary's Hospital" on Justia Law

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Neighbors is a skilled nursing facility participating in Medicare and Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) determined that Neighbors inadequately addressed sexual interactions between three cognitively impaired residents and that Neighbors’ failure to act put the residents in “immediate jeopardy,” and issued Neighbors a citation and an $83,800 penalty under 42 U.S.C. 1395i‐3(h)(2)(B)(ii)(I). An ALJ and the Department of Health and Human Services Departmental Appeals Board upheld the decision. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that substantial evidence supports the Agency’s determinations and rejecting claims that the sexual interactions were consensual. The court noted findings that staff, aware of the sexual interactions, did not talk to the residents about their feelings about these “relationships”; did not document the residents’ capacity for consent (or lack thereof) or communicate with residents’ physicians for medical assessment of how their cognitive deficits impacted that capacity; did not discuss the developments with the residents’ responsible parties; and did not record any monitoring of the behaviors or make any care plans to account for them. Neighbors’ non‐intervention policy prevented any real inquiry into consent, except in the extreme situation where a resident was yelling or physically acting out. View "Neighbors Rehabilitation Center, LLC v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Mimms, an Indiana-licensed physician, prescribes controlled substances to patients. Several times, CVS Pharmacy employees informed Mimms’s patients that they would not fill their prescriptions. Mimms sued, alleging defamation. CVS argued that Mimms had no evidence that the speakers knew their statements were false. The court granted summary judgment as to five statements and denied judgment for four statements, reasoning there was a material question of fact regarding whether the speakers knew that their statements were false, given evidence that CVS’s corporate office had investigated Mimms and had not stopped stores from filling his prescriptions. The court rejected CVS’s argument that knowledge held by the corporate office could not be imputed to the speakers. The statements were: “CVS doesn’t fill Dr. Mimms’[s] prescriptions or prescriptions for any other pill mills.” “Mimms went to jail.” “Mimms has been … or will be arrested.” “Mimms is under DEA investigation. A jury found CVS liable for defamation per se and awarded Mimms $1,025,000. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Mimms proffered no evidence that the first three statements were made with actual malice. CVS is entitled to a new trial on the fourth statement; the court should have allowed CVS to present evidence that Mimms was the subject of a DEA investigation and regarding Mimms’s reputation. In a defamation per se case, damage to reputation is presumed but evidence regarding the extent of the harm to his professional reputation was critical for minimizing damages. View "Mimms v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc." on Justia Law

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Stephens was born in 1957 and has a ninth-grade education. He worked as a taxi dispatcher and a security guard in the 15 years preceding his alleged disability. Stephens contends that he is disabled by diabetes, kidney disease, knee and back pain, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, and obesity. He was denied Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. On remand, a different ALJ determined that Stephens’ impairments, although severe, were not disabling and that he could perform relevant past work. The district court and Seventh Circuit upheld the denial, rejecting arguments that the ALJ erred by improperly evaluating Stephens’s obesity (no longer a stand-alone disability) when determining the aggregate impact of his impairments; that the ALJ’s finding that the record lacked medical opinion evidence as to Stephens’ hypersomnolence or excessive sleepiness; and that the ALJ failed to incorporate all of his impairments and consider their combined impact to evaluate his residual functional capacity. View "Stephens v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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For several weeks, Redman posed as a psychiatrist at a Chicago medical clinic using the name and license number of Dr. Garcia. He “treated” patients for mental illnesses, and “prescribed” controlled substances. Redman actually did not attend school past the tenth grade. Before commencing employment, Redman provided falsified documentation: an employment application, payroll application, I‐9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, W‐9 form, photograph of an Indiana driver’s license with Redman’s picture, photocopy of an Illinois medical license, photocopy of a medical school diploma, a residency certificate for training in psychiatry, and a photocopy of a social security card. He used online counterfeiting services; he submitted an online Drug Enforcement Administration application and obtained malpractice insurance using false information. He was discovered when the real Dr. Garcia learned that someone had used his medical license number to obtain a DEA registration. A jury found Redman guilty of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, furnishing false and fraudulent material information in documents required under the federal drug laws, and distributing controlled substances. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his 157-month sentence, upholding the application of two-level enhancements for use of sophisticated means and for conduct that involved a conscious or reckless disregard of a risk of death or serious bodily injury. View "United States v. Redman" on Justia Law