Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court judge denying Plaintiffs' second request for a preliminary injunction, holding that there was no error.Plaintiffs, a class of inmates in Department of Correction (DOC) facilities, brought this complaint alleging that the conditions of their confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and seeking to enjoin the DOC to use various measures to reduce the incarcerated population. After the class was certified Plaintiffs filed a second emergency motion for a preliminary injunction seeking an immediate reduction in the incarcerated population. The motion judge denied Plaintiffs' second motion for preliminary relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs were unlikely to prevail on their Eighth Amendment claim, and therefore, the superior court did not err in denying their second motion for preliminary relief. View "Foster v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Commissioner of Correction's exercise of the "commissioner's certification" provision in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 18(a) to retain K.J. at Bridgewater State Hospital violated article 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.K.J., an adult man who faced criminal charges in the district court and the superior court, was committed involuntarily to Bridgewater. The commitment was subsequently extended. This appeal concerned the medical director of Bridgewater's most recent petition to have K.J. again recommitted for one year under section 18(a). The judge found that K.J. did not require strict custody and therefore, as required by section 18(a), issued an order committing K.J. to a lower security Department of Mental Health (DMH) facility. Despite that order, the Commissioner exercised the "commissioner's certification" provision in section 18(a) to retain K.J. at Bridgewater. The Supreme Judicial Court ordered that K.J. be transferred to a DMH facility, holding (1) the commissioner's certification provision of section 18(a) violates article 30; and (2) the remainder of section 18(a) is capable of separation. View "K.J. v. Superintendent of Bridgewater State Hospital" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this case for a new hearing held pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7 and 8, holding that the trial judge erred in allowing an expert witness to testify on direct examination about the basis of his opinion when the facts were neither within the expert's personal knowledge nor otherwise admitted into evidence during the proceeding.The Department of Mental Health filed a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7 and 8 to recommit P.R. to a mental health facility. The judge held a full hearing on the merits of the petition. During the hearing, P.R.'s psychiatrist testified for the Department. The judge ultimately found that P.R.'s commitment should continue, and the appellate division affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case, holding (1) the trial court erred by allowing the psychiatrist to testify about unadmitted medical reports on direct examination, and the error was prejudicial, requiring a new hearing; and (2) the judge did not err by not making a statement of written or oral findings before ordering commitment under sections 7 and 8. View "In re P.R." on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order of the superior court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the counts of breach of fiduciary duty and conversion, holding that a conservator acting pursuant to judicial approval is a quasi judicial officer and is entitled to absolute immunity for conduct that is authorized or approved by the probate court.Plaintiff, acting as guardian and next of friend for his mother, filed a complaint against defendant, the mother's permanent conservator, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, malpractice, conversion, and fraud. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The judge allowed the motion as to the malpractice and fraud counts but denied the motion as to the remaining counts. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of an order allowing the motion to dismiss in its entirety, holding that Plaintiff did not allege that Defendant acted outside the authorized scope of her duties as conservator, and therefore, the superior court judge erred in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the remaining counts of breach of fiduciary duty and conversion. View "Hornibrook v. Richard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court denying this action in the nature of mandamus as well as certiorari review of the decision of the city of Salem to reject Mederi, Inc.'s application to enter into a host community (HCA) agreement, holding that there was no error.When Mederi applied for an HCA with the city to open a retail marijuana establishment in Salem it was one of eight applications vying for four available spots. The city of Salem denied Merderi's application. Merderi then filed a complaint seeking relief in the nature of mandamus as well as certiorari review of the city's decision, claiming that by rejecting it as an HCA partner, the city effectively precluded Mederi from being considered for a license to sell marijuana. A superior court judge dismissed the mandamus claim and granted judgment on the pleadings on the remaining certiorari claim. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the city made a rational choice to reject Mederi's application in favor of other prospective retail marijuana establishments; and (2) the city's application process was not contrary to law. View "Mederi, Inc. v. Salem" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed as moot Plaintiffs' appeal arguing that the Department of Correction (DOC) illegally kept them in custody after a final decision on their petitions for medical parole had been made by the Commissioner of Correction but answered two questions reported by the single justice.Plaintiffs were two prisoners recently released under the medical parole statute. Before their actual release from incarceration, Plaintiffs sought relief from a single justice of the court. The single justice denied Plaintiffs' request for relief and separately reported two questions to the Supreme Judicial Court regarding the requirements of finding a replacement for a prisoner who is granted medical parole and the timing of a prisoner's release after medical parole is granted. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed Plaintiffs' appeal as moot and answered (1) after medical parole is granted the DOC must develop comprehensive plans including a proposed course and site for treatment; and (2) once a favorable decision by the Commissioner allows release on medical parole, the DOC must be proactive in working to release the prisoner expeditiously. View "Malloy v. Department of Correction" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a judge of the probate court denying Appellant's special motion to dismiss the amended objection of William Charles Hamm, a protected person, to a conservator's final account, holding that the anti-SLAPP statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H, did not apply in this circumstance.The conservator filed accounts for each of the seventeen years for which she and her husband were conservators for their son, the protected person in this case. The protected person filed an objection and amended objection to the final accountings. The conservator objected with two motions to dismiss, including the anti-SLAPP motion at issue on appeal. The probate court judge denied both motions. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the anti-SLAPP statute did not apply in the circumstances of this case. View "In re Hamm" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court judge in this civil commitment matter, holding that sufficient admissible evidence was presented to warrant an order to civilly commit J.P. for a period not to exceed six months pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7, 8.Southcoast Behavioral Health filed a timely petition for J.P.'s involuntary commitment, alleging that, as a result of mental illness, J.P. presented a risk of harm to others and a substantial risk of harm to himself and that civil commitment was the least restrictive alternative in the circumstances. After a hearing, the judge ordered J.P. civilly committed for a period not to exceed six months. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the judge improperly considered certain evidence because it was inadmissible hearsay, but J.P. suffered no prejudice from the admission of this evidence; and (2) there was sufficient evidence presented to support the civil commitment order. View "In re J.P." on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the Court denying Petitioner's petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.Petitioner was indicted on several counts of rape and one count of strangulation or suffocation. Petitioner was committed for observation to Bridgewater State Hospital for a determination whether he was competent to stand trial. Petitioner was found incompetent to stand trial and committed to the hospital pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 16. Petitioner, who remains in the hospital, filed a Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition claiming, among other things, that his constitutional rights had been violated. The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy and that his claims did not present a situation warranting extraordinary superintendence relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Ardaneh v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
On appeal from a federal appellate court's decision that the Federal Medicare scheme prohibits State Medicaid agencies, including MassHealth, from receiving funds from Medicare, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered that this case be remanded for modification of the declaratory judgment, holding that MassHealth demonstrated a sufficient change in circumstances to warrant modification to allow MassHealth to seek reimbursement where the liable third party is Medicare.In Atlanticare Medical Center v. Commissioner of the Division of Medical Assistance, 439 Mass. 1, 3, 5 (2003) (Altanticare I), the Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the Federal Medicaid scheme tasked the State Medicaid agency, not individual providers, with seeking reimbursement from liable third-party insurers, including Medicare. When the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) refused to issue reimbursements from Medicare to MassHealth, MassHealth brought suit. In 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that the Federal Medicare scheme prohibited MassHealth from receiving funds from Medicare. Therefore, a Federal Medicare regulation was amended to acknowledge the practice of State Medicaid agencies obtaining Medicare reimbursements through providers, rather than seeking such reimbursements directly from Medicare. MassHealth sought to modify the declaratory judgment and restore its ability to obtain reimbursements from providers, rather than liable third parties. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for modification of the judgment, holding that changed circumstances required modification. View "Atlanticare Medical Center v. Division of Medical Assistance" on Justia Law