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

Articles Posted in Health Law
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The case revolves around Morgan Morales, who appealed against an administrative law judge's (ALJ) decision that she was not disabled and hence, not entitled to Social Security disability benefits. Morales claimed to suffer from several conditions, including bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and narcolepsy. After being treated at a mental health center and starting on prescription medications, Morales reported that her conditions were in remission. The ALJ, however, denied her application for benefits, finding that her mental impairments were mild and did not limit her ability to perform basic work activities, including her past job as a material handler.Morales challenged the ALJ's decision in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. She criticized the ALJ's decision about her functional capacity to work but failed to provide evidence compelling the conclusion that the adverse disability decision lacked substantial support in the record. The District Court upheld the ALJ's decision, stating that Morales had not carried her burden of proof and that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence.The case was then brought to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The court affirmed the lower court's decision, stating that Morales had misunderstood the burden she bore on appeal. The court noted that it was not enough to criticize the ALJ's decision; Morales needed to point to evidence compelling the conclusion that the adverse disability decision lacked substantial support in the record. The court also dismissed Morales's criticism of the District Court's decision, stating that the District Court had conducted an adequate review of the ALJ's determination and correctly applied the law. The court concluded that the ALJ's determination was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence, and therefore, affirmed the decision. View "Morales v. O'Malley" on Justia Law

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The case involves Asif Sayeed and three associated healthcare companies who were found liable for violating the Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act, resulting in a nearly $6 million judgment. Sayeed owned a healthcare management company, Management Principles, Inc. (MPI), which managed two smaller companies that provided home-based medical services to Medicare recipients in Illinois. Sayeed's companies received a significant amount of their business from the Healthcare Consortium of Illinois. In December 2010, Sayeed devised a scheme to bypass the Consortium’s referral process by directly soliciting its clients for additional services. MPI signed a Management Services Agreement with the Consortium, which gave MPI full access to its clients’ healthcare data. MPI used this information to identify and directly solicit Medicare-eligible seniors who might want or need additional healthcare services.The district court held a bench trial in July 2019 and found that Sayeed and his companies had not violated the Anti-Kickback Statute or False Claims Act because they had paid the Consortium with the intent to obtain information, not patient referrals. The plaintiff appealed, and the court of appeals reversed the decision, concluding that the defendants' conduct qualified as a form of indirect referral giving rise to an unlawful kickback scheme.On remand, the district court found the defendants liable under both the Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act. The court imposed $5,940,972.16 in damages, which it calculated by trebling the value of the Medicare claims it deemed false and then adding a per-claim penalty of $5,500. The defendants appealed, challenging both the damages award and the underlying finding of liability. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of liability but reversed in part to permit the district court to clarify which Medicare claims, all or some, resulted from the defendants’ illegal kickback scheme. View "Stop Illinois Health Care Fraud, LLC v. Sayeed" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a patient, Tommy Harris, who contracted bacterial sepsis due to repeated infections from his dialysis treatment at a clinic in Belleville, Illinois. Harris filed a malpractice lawsuit against the operators of the clinic and later included a claim against Durham Enterprises, Inc., the janitorial company responsible for cleaning the facility. The case primarily concerns Durham’s insurance coverage. Durham submitted the lawsuit to Ohio Security Insurance Company, its insurer, which denied coverage based on the insurance policy’s exclusion for injuries caused by fungi or bacteria. Harris and Durham then negotiated an agreement in which Durham promised not to mount a defense and Harris promised to seek recovery only from the insurer. The state trial judge granted a motion to sever Harris's claim against Durham and set it for a bench trial. The judge held a short, uncontested bench trial and entered judgment against Durham for more than $2 million.Ohio Security was not a party to the state court proceedings and the insurance policy was not in the record. However, the consent judgment includes findings on insurance issues, notably, that the insurer breached its duty to defend and is estopped from asserting any policy defenses. After the judgment became final, Harris filed an amended complaint purporting to add Ohio Security as a defendant. Ohio Security removed the action to federal court and sought a declaration of its coverage obligations. The district court held that the bacteria exclusion precludes coverage.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Harris and Durham jointly appealed, challenging the no-coverage ruling but also raising a belated challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker–Feldman doctrine. The court found the jurisdictional argument meritless, as the Rooker–Feldman doctrine does not block federal jurisdiction over claims by nonparties to state-court judgments. The court also affirmed the district court's ruling that the policy’s bacteria exclusion precludes coverage for this loss. View "Mitchell v. Durham Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves two defendants, Christopher Yates and Shawn Connelly, who were convicted for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. The conspiracy operated out of Macomb, Illinois, and lasted thirteen months, from January 2019 to February 2020. Yates supplied the methamphetamine, initially purchasing the drugs from an unknown source in Joliet, Illinois, with alleged Mexican cartel connections. After the arrest of that supplier, Yates sought out a new source. Connelly was among the distributors.The United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois sentenced both defendants. Yates argued that the government failed to prove the purity of all the methamphetamine involved in the conspiracy, having only tested a small, unrepresentative amount. Connelly argued that the court should not have relied on his coconspirators’ statements to calculate the total drug weight, and that the full weight was not reasonably foreseeable to him. The district court rejected both arguments and sentenced Yates to 168 months in prison and Connelly to 188 months’ imprisonment.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated Yates’s sentence and remanded the case. The court found that the government did not provide reliable evidence to support the district court's finding that the conspiracy involved at least 737.1 grams of “ice” methamphetamine. Therefore, Yates was entitled to resentencing. However, the court affirmed Connelly’s sentence, finding that the district court did not err in its calculation of the total drug weight attributable to him. View "United States v. Connelly" on Justia Law

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Google and the University of Chicago Medical Center collaborated to develop software capable of anticipating patients’ future healthcare needs. The University delivered several years of anonymized patient medical records to Google, to “train” the software’s algorithms. An agreement restricted Google’s use of the records to specific research-related activities and prohibited Google from attempting to identify any patient whose records were disclosed. Dinerstein sued on behalf of himself and a class of other patients whose anonymized records were disclosed, claiming that the University had breached either an express or an implied contract traceable to a privacy notice he received and an authorization he signed upon each admission to the Medical Center. Alternatively, he asserted unjust enrichment. Citing the same notice and authorization, he alleged that the University had breached its promise of patient confidentiality, violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Against Google, he claimed unjust enrichment and tortious interference with his contract with the University. He brought a privacy claim based on intrusion upon seclusion.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. To sue in federal court, a plaintiff must plausibly allege (and later prove) that he has suffered an injury in fact that is concrete and particularized, actual or imminent, and traceable to the defendant’s conduct. The injuries Dinerstein alleges lack plausibility, concreteness, or imminence (or some combination of the three). View "Dinerstein v. Google, LLC" on Justia Law

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The 2005 Medicare amendment, launching prescription drug coverage, raised concerns that patient assistance plans could violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b, and the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729, by effectively rewarding doctors and patients for choosing particular drugs. Astellas subsequently launched Xtandi, used to treat metastatic prostate cancer. Priced at $7,800 per month, Xtandi prescriptions were covered by Medicare up to about $6,000 per month. Astellas made contributions to two patient assistance plans. An Astellas marketing executive encouraged both plans to create special funds to provide co-pay assistance for only androgen receptor inhibitors like Xtandi and a few other medications. Astellas donated to the new funds but stopped after contributing about $27 million. Astellas continued contributing to broader prostate cancer funds.The Department of Justice began investigating; the Astellas marketing executive acknowledged that he had “hoped” and “expected” that the contributions would produce financial benefits for Astellas but that Astellas had made no efforts to calculate “a return on investment.” Astellas settled with the government for $100 million--$50 million for “restitution” to the government. Astellas sought indemnification from liability insurers, including Federal, which denied coverage.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Astellas. Under Illinois law, a party may not obtain liability insurance for genuine restitution it owes the victim of its intentional wrongdoing, but a party may obtain insurance for compensatory damages. In cases of ambiguity, Illinois favors settlements and freedom of contract. Federal wrote its insurance policy to try to extend coverage to the limit of what Illinois law would allow. Federal did not carry its burden of showing that the portion of the settlement payment for which Astellas seeks coverage is uninsurable restitution. View "Astellas US Holding, Inc. v. Federal Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Bridges and Cunningham filed a putative class action, alleging that Blackstone (the owner of Ancestry.com) violated Section 30 of Illinois’s 1998 Genetic Information Privacy Act, which provides that no person or company “may disclose or be compelled to disclose the identity of any person upon whom a genetic test is performed or the results of a genetic test in a manner that permits identification of the subject of the test,” 410 ILCS 513/30(a). Both plaintiffs had purchased DNA testing products from Ancestry and submitted saliva samples for genetic sequencing years earlier. Blackstone subsequently purchased Ancestry in a “control acquisition”— an all-stock transaction. Because Ancestry had allegedly paired the plaintiffs’ genetic tests with personally identifiable information—including names, emails, and home addresses—Bridges and Cunningham maintained that Blackstone, as part of acquiring Ancestry, had compelled the disclosure of their genetic identities in violation of Section 30.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit for failure to state a claim. The complaint focusing exclusively on Blackstone’s acquisition of Ancestry did not adequately allege any compulsory disclosure. View "Bridges v. Blackstone, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2018, Escamilla was stationed at Fort Drum. During an on-base medical appointment, he complained of hearing voices that were telling him to commit suicide. He agreed to seek treatment at Samaritan Hospital, where he was admitted to the inpatient mental health unit under New York State Mental Hygiene Law, 9.39(a), which permits the director of a hospital to “receive and retain therein as a patient for a period of fifteen days any person alleged to have a mental illness for which immediate observation, care, and treatment in a hospital is appropriate and which is likely to result in serious harm to himself or others.” Escamilla was discharged 11 days later, with diagnoses of mild depressive disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and autism spectrum disorder.A year later, Escamilla attempted to purchase a handgun from an online retailer, who shipped the gun to a federal firearm licensee in Wisconsin. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System generated a response denying the firearm transfer. Escamilla was prohibited from possessing a firearm under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(4), as a person who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed a judgment for the government. Escamilla’s admittance to Samaritan constituted a “commitment” under section 922(g)(4). The court rejected Escamilla’s argument that his hospitalization did not qualify as a commitment because he was there on a voluntary, informal basis. View "Escamilla v. United States" on Justia Law

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Indiana requires abortion providers to dispose of fetal remains by either burial or cremation. Women may choose to take custody of the remains and dispose of them as they please. The Supreme Court sustained this regimen against Equal Protection challenges in 2019.This suit was filed by two women who had abortions and object to the cremation or burial of the fetal remains, which they contend implies the personhood of a pre-viability fetus, and two physicians do not want to tell patients about their statutory options. The Seventh Circuit reversed a “needlessly broad injunction” that treats the statute as invalid on its face and “effectively countermands the Supreme Court’s decision for the entire population of Indiana." The state does not require any woman who has obtained an abortion to violate any belief, religious or secular. The cremate-or-bury directive applies only to hospitals and clinics. Indiana’s statute need not imply anything about the appropriate characterization of a fetus. Nor does Indiana require any woman to speak or engage in expressive conduct. A state may require medical professionals to provide information that facilitates patients’ choices directly linked to procedures that have been or may be performed. View "Doe v. Rokita, Attorney General of Indiana" on Justia Law

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Illinois, Cook County Health and Hospitals System, Chicago, and Naperville each issued an order, policy, or directive requiring certain employees to vaccinate or regularly test for COVID-19. Employees who failed to comply would be subject to disciplinary action, including possible termination. Three district judges denied motions for preliminary injunctions against those vaccine mandates.Consolidating the appeals, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Rejecting a claim that the regulations violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to substantive due process by interfering with their rights to bodily autonomy and privacy, the court stated that the plaintiffs failed to provide facts sufficient to show that the challenged mandates abridge a fundamental right and did not provide a textual or historical argument for their constitutional interpretation. The district judge properly applied the rational basis standard. The plaintiffs established the efficacy of natural immunity and pointed out some uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 vaccines but did not establish that the governments lack a “reasonably conceivable state of facts” to support their policies. Without specifying the process that was due, how it was withheld, and evidence for the alleged protected interest, the plaintiffs’ procedural due process claims fail. The court also rejected free exercise claims and claims under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act. View "Troogstad v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law