Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Health Law
Correa v. Schoeck
A pharmacy has a limited legal duty to take reasonable steps to notify a patient and his or her prescribing physician of the need for prior authorization each time the patient tries to fill a prescription.Only the pharmacy, and not the physician or the patient, is notified by a health insurer when a prescribing physician must complete a prior authorization form and submit it to the insurer. In this case, prior authorization was necessary for Yarushka Rivera to obtain insurance coverage for Topamax, a medication she needed to control life-threatening seizures. When Rivera reached age nineteen, her insurer refused to pay for the prescription because it had not received the necessary prior authorization form. Rivera, who was unable to afford the medication without insurance, suffered a fatal seizure at the age of nineteen. Plaintiff brought this action for wrongful death and punitive damages against Walgreen Eastern Co., Inc. The superior court concluded that Walgreens had no legal duty to Rivera to notify Rivera’s prescribing physician of the need for prior authorization. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Walgreens owed a legal duty of care to take reasonable steps to notify Rivera and her prescribing physician of the need for prior authorization each time Rivera tried to fill her prescription. View "Correa v. Schoeck" on Justia Law
In re F.C.
The Appellate Division erred in summarily dismissing F.C.’s appeal from a terminated commitment and treatment order as moot in reliance on Matter of N.L., 476 Mass. 632, 633 (2017).Following F.C.’s involuntary hospitalization, McLean Hospital filed a petition for F.C.'s commitment. F.C. was involuntarily committed and treated after a hearing. F.C. appealed, and his appeal was staying pending the decision in Matter of N.L. As the appeal was pending, F.C. was discharged from the facility. Citing Matter of N.L., the Appellate Division summarily dismissed the appeal as moot. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the Appellate Division’s order and remanded for determination of the appeal on its merits, holding that appeals from expired or terminated commitment and treatment orders under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7, 8, and 8B should not be dismissed as moot where the parties have a continuing interest in the case. View "In re F.C." on Justia Law
In re Guardianship of D.C.
At issue was the lawfulness of allowing a hospital to transfer a patient involuntarily to a skilled nursing facility in the absence of a guardianship. The Supreme Court held that the appointment of a guardian over an incapacitated person is necessary, but not by itself sufficient, to admit an incapacitated person to a nursing facility against his or her will, because such an admission requires an additional order by the court based on a specific finding that the admission is in the incapacitated person’s best interest.Specifically, the Court held that when a hospital patient refuses to consent to be transferred to a nursing facility, a judge may order the patient to be admitted to a nursing facility under the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code only if the judge (1) finds the patient to be an incapacitated person; (2) makes the other findings necessary to appoint a guardian under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 190B, 5-306(b); and (3) then grants the guardian specific authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 190B, 5-309(g) to admit the incapacitated person to a nursing facility after finding that such admission is in the incapacitated person’s best interest. View "In re Guardianship of D.C." on Justia Law
In re E.C.
The dismissal of the criminal charge pending against Respondent, an incompetent defendant, did not require his release from commitment to Bridgewater State Hospital, where the charge was dismissed after the period of commitment had expired, and a petition to extend the commitment had yet to be decided.After the criminal charge against Respondent was dismissed, Bridgewater moved to file an amended petition to modify its pending Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 16(c) petition to a petition for civil commitment pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7 and 8. The district court concluded that Bridgewater had no authority to hold Respondent pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 16(c), denied Bridgewater’s petition to amend, and ordered Respondent discharged. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the dismissal of the criminal charges did not require Respondent’s immediate release from commitment, and Bridgewater retained the statutory authority to hold Respondent while the Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 16(c) petition was pending; and (2) the district court abused its discretion in denying Bridgewater’s request to amend its pending petition for an extension under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 16(c) to a petition for civil commitment under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7 and 8. View "In re E.C." on Justia Law
Commonwealth v. Curran
The right of an incompetent defendant to raise defenses in a proceeding pursuant to Conn. Gen. Laws ch. 123A, 15, which allows incompetent persons who are unable to stand trial for qualifying sex offenses to be deemed sexually dangerous based on the commission of those offenses, includes that of a lack of criminal responsibility.The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the trial judge’s denial of Defendant’s motion to admit expert testimony that he was not criminally responsible for his criminal acts and the judge’s allowance of the Commonwealth’s motion to preclude the testimony, holding that the statute allows incompetent defendants to raise any defenses that they could raise in a criminal trial, including that of a lack of criminal responsibility. View "Commonwealth v. Curran" on Justia Law
Barbuto v. Advantage Sales & Marketing, LLC
A patient who qualifies for the medical use of marijuana and has been terminated from her employment because she tested positive for marijuana as a result of her lawful medical use of marijuana may seek a civil remedy against her employer through claims of handicap discrimination in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B. The Supreme Judicial Court thus reversed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s claim for handicap discrimination and related claims under chapter 151B but affirmed the allowance of the motion to dismiss as to the counts claiming an implied private cause of action under the medical marijuana act and wrongful termination in violation of public policy, holding that there is no implied statutory private cause of action under the medical marijuana act and that Plaintiff failed to state a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. View "Barbuto v. Advantage Sales & Marketing, LLC" on Justia Law
AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Inc. v. Town of Barnstable
Since 2009, AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Inc. (ASGCC) has been operating a free hypodermic needle access program in a village in Barnstable. The Town of Barnstable ordered the cessation of the program, asserting that ASGCC was in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94C, 27 and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 111, 215. In response to the Town’s cease and desist order, ASGCC filed this action seeking injunctive relief and a declaration that its nonsale needle access program was not statutorily prohibited. The superior court judge reported the question to the Appeals Court, and the Supreme Judicial Court allowed ASGCC’s application for direct appellate review. The court remanded the matter to the superior court for entry of a declaration that neither statute prohibits ASGCC from engaging in free distribution of hypodermic needles and an injunction permanently enjoining enforcement of the Town’s order to cease and desist, holding that the plain language of the statutes does not proscribe free distribution of hypodermic needs by a private individual or organization such as ASGCC that does not operate a program implemented by the Department of Public Health. View "AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Inc. v. Town of Barnstable" on Justia Law
Schumacher v. Commonwealth
Appellant filed a Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition seeking interlocutory relief from an order of the superior court temporarily committing him to the Massachusetts Treatment Center pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123A, 12(e) pending a probable cause determination on the Commonwealth’s petition for Appellant’s civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person. A single justice denied relief on the ground that Appellant had an adequate remedy in the ordinary appellate process. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that all of Appellant’s arguments as to the merits of his petition could be raised on appeal from an adverse final judgment in this matter. View "Schumacher v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law
In re N.L.
After N.L. was admitted to a mental health facility (hospital) the hospital filed a petition for commitment pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7 and 8 and for authorization for medical treatment for mental illness pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 8B. After a hearing on the petitions the judge ordered N.L. to be involuntarily committed to the hospital for a period not to exceed six months and allowed the hospital’s petition to treat N.L. with antipsychotic medication against his will. N.L. appealed. The Appellate Division of the District Court Department dismissed N.L.’s appeal as moot because he had since been discharged from the hospital. N.L.again appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed N.L.’s appeal as moot but exercised its discretion to address the issue before it, holding that where a person or his or her counsel requests a continuance of a hearing pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7(c) or 8B, the grant of the continuance is mandatory where a denial thereof is reasonably likely to prejudice a person’s ability to prepare a meaningful defense. View "In re N.L." on Justia Law
Posted in: Health Law
In re G.P.
A district court judge ordered Petitioner committed to the Women’s Addiction Treatment Center pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 35, a statute that authorizes the involuntary civil commitment of a person, for care and treatment, where there is a likelihood of serious harm that could result from the person’s alcoholism or substance abuse. The Appellate Division dismissed Petitioner’s appeal. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking to vacate the order. A single justice reserved and reported the case to the full Court. The Supreme Judicial court dismissed the petition for relief as moot, holding (1) because Petitioner was no longer committed to the facility, her challenge to the order of commitment was rendered moot; but (2) because this case raised important issues concerning the operation of section 35 as well as the Uniform Trial Court Rules for Civil Commitment Proceedings for Alcohol and Substance Abuse scheduled to go into effect on February 1, 2016, the Court decided the case and concluded that the evidence in this case did not appear to satisfy the requirements of section 35 for an order of commitment. View "In re G.P." on Justia Law
Posted in: Health Law