Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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The special administrator of the Estate of W.C. Chappel filed an action on behalf of herself and other members of a class of similarly situated persons (collectively, Appellees) alleging claims of negligence and wrongful death against GGNSC Holdings, LLC, related corporate entities, several of GGNSC’s nursing-facility centers, and employees of GGNSC or one of its related entities (collectively, Appellants). Specifically, Appellees alleged that Appellants failed to properly care for patients in GGNSC’s nursing facilities. Appellants filed motions to compel arbitration, alleging that any claims by Appellees were barred from being litigated because of arbitration agreements that were signed by the residents or their authorized agents. The circuit court denied the motions, concluding that there was a lack of authority to bind Appellees to the arbitration agreements and that the agreements were unconscionable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in failing to expressly rule on the threshold issue of whether there was a valid agreement to arbitrate. Remanded. View "GGNSC Holdings LLC v. Chappel" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law, Injury Law
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Theresa Holbrook requested her medical records from Millard Henry Clinic. Healthport, Inc., a private company that had a contract with Millard Henry Clinic to fulfill such requests, obtained copies of Holbrook’s requested medical records. Healthport subsequently sent Holbrook invoices for the records, including sales tax. Holbrook, individually and on behalf of all other Arkansans similarly situated, filed a class-action complaint seeking damages and requesting that the court find, inter alia, that Healthport illegally collected sales taxes for retrieving and copying her medical records. Holbrook later filed an amended complaint containing allegations against the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. The circuit court granted Defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment and denied Holbrook’s motion for partial summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in determining that the gross-receipts-tax statute imposes a sales tax on a patient’s ability to obtain a copy of the patient’s own medical records; and (2) the Arkansas Access to Medical Records Act does not exempt a patient’s request for copies of the patient’s medical information from any otherwise applicable tax or charge. View "Holbrook v. Healthport, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1993, Appellants developed Risperdal, a second-generation, or atypical, antipsychotic medication, which was considered highly beneficial in treating schizophrenia patients. In 2007, the State filed suit against Appellants, alleging that Appellants (1) knowingly made false statements or representations of material fact in their Risperdal label in violation of the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act (“MFFCA”); and (2) violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“DTPA”) by distributing a promotional letter to Arkansas healthcare providers that contained “false, deceptive, or unconscionable statements.” A jury found that Janssen violated the MFFCA and the DTPA by failing to comply with federal labeling requirements and imposed civil penalties totaling $11,422,500. The Supreme Court (1) reversed and dismissed the MFFCA claim, as Appellants were not healthcare facilities or applying for certification as described by the statute; and (2) reversed and remanded the DTPA claim, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in admitting certain hearsay into evidence. View "Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharms., Inc. v. State" on Justia Law

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Decedent became a resident of Golden Living Center, a nursing home, in 2009. Later that year, Courtyard Gardens took over ownership and operation of the facility. Thereafter, Decedent's son, Ronald Quarles signed a new admission agreement and optional arbitration agreement. In 2011, Kenny Quarles, another of Decedent's sons acting as power of attorney, filed an amended complaint against Courtyard Gardens and other entities associated with it and the Center, seeking damages for negligence, medical malpractice, and violations of the Arkansas Long-Term Care Residents' Act. Courtyard Gardens filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The circuit court denied Courtyard Garden's motion to compel arbitration, concluding that questions of fact remained regarding Ronald's authority to bind Decedent to the arbitration agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion to compel arbitration, holding that there was no valid arbitration agreement as a matter of law because Ronald had neither actual authority nor statutory authority to enter into the arbitration agreement on Decedent's behalf. View "Courtyard Gardens Health & Rehab., LLC v. Quarles" on Justia Law

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While Defendant was performing laparoscopic surgery to remove Plaintiff's left ovary, Plaintiff's bowel was perforated. Plaintiff required a colostomy to repair the perforation. Plaintiff filed a claim alleging medical malpractice against Defendant and others. At trial, Plaintiff presented the expert testimony of a medical doctor who testified that the actions of Defendant were negligent. After Plaintiff rested, the circuit court granted Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on the issue of negligence and dismissed the complaint in its entirety. Plaintiff appealed, asserting that her expert's testimony was sufficient to satisfy the locality rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff's expert's testimony regarding the standard of care in the same or similar locality was insufficient to create a question of fact on this issue; and (2) accordingly, the circuit court did not err in granting Defendant's motion for directed verdict. View "Plymate v. Martinelli" on Justia Law

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Appellant was employed by Employer when he suffered a compensable work-related brain injury. Appellant, who was permanently and totally disabled, filed a workers' compensation claim seeking benefits and also requested benefits for the nursing care services his mother was providing. The workers' compensation commission (Commission) found Appellant's injury was compensable but denied the requested nursing service benefits. Appellant subsequently made a second request for additional benefits in the form of nursing services at Timber Ridge Ranch, an assisted living facility. The Commission denied Appellant benefits, finding that the services at Timber Ridge were not nursing services as defined by the law. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commission's findings and conclusions were not supported by substantial evidence and that the services provided at Timber Ridge qualified as nursing services under the applicable statutes. Remanded. View "Pack v. Little Rock Convention Ctr. & Visitors Bureau" on Justia Law

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Appellant requested her medical records from a medical clinic. Pursuant to its contract with Appellant's medical care provider, Healthport, Inc., a private company that fulfills such requests for medical records, obtained and sold Appellant the copies of her requested medical records. Healthport collected sales tax on charges for services rendered in retrieving and copying the medical records. Appellant subsequently filed a class-action complaint against Healthport for violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA), unjust enrichment, and a declaratory judgment that Healthport illegally collected the sales tax. Healthport impleaded the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DF&A) by filing a counterclaim and a third-party complaint seeking declaratory judgment on whether the State's tax statutes require the collection of sales tax on labor and copy charges associated with the production of medical records. The circuit court granted Healthport's and DF&A's motions for summary judgment, finding that sales tax applied to the sale of copies of medical records and that this conclusion rendered Appellant's additional claims moot. The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant's appeal without prejudice for lack of a proper Ark. R. Civ. P. 54(b) certificate, as the circuit court's Rule 54(b) certificate failed to comply with Rule 54(b). View "Holbrook v. Healthport, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellees Edgar and Clara Shelton filed a complaint against St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, Catholic Health Initiatives (collectively, Appellants) and Golden Living Center, alleging negligence, medical malpractice, and violations of the Arkansas Long Term Care Resident's Rights Statute for Edgar's treatment while he was a patient at the facilities. Golden Living was dismissed from the suit after a settlement. Appellants subsequently filed a cross-claim and third-party complaint against Golden Living. The circuit court struck Appellants' cross-claim and third-party complaint, finding that Appellants did not have a claim or cause of action against Golden Living. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in striking Appellants' third-party complaint; and (2) the dismissal of Appellants' third-party complaint did not operate to prevent Appellants from presenting to the jury potential evidence of Golden Living's responsibility for a portion of Edgar's injuries. View "St. Vincent Infirmary Med. Ctr. v. Shelton" on Justia Law

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When Cody Metheny underwent brain surgery, the physician (Doctor) mistakenly operated on the wrong side of his brain. Fifteen months later, Cody's parents (the Methenys) learned tissue had been removed from the wrong side of Cody's brain. The Methenys filed a direct-action suit, alleging medical negligence on the part of Hospital where Doctor practiced and against Hospital's liability-insurance carrier (Insurer). The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Methenys. Insurer appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in (1) failing to instruct the jury in a manner that would allow it to apportion liability among it and certain physicians who were sued in a prior case but ultimately settled; (2) refusing to allow Insurer to present evidence of fault attributable to the settling physicians; and (3) denying Insurer's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict where the evidence supporting Cody's future damages was based on improperly bundled calculations. The Methenys cross-appealed the circuit court's order reducing the jury's verdict from $20 million to $11 million. The Supreme Court affirmed on direct appeal and cross-appeal, holding that the circuit court did not err in its judgment. View "ProAssurance Indem. Co. v. Metheny" on Justia Law

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This petition for writ of certiorari arose out of two pending nursing home malpractice cases alleging abuse and neglect at Bryant Healthcare Center (Bryant). The plaintiffs below served a subpoena on the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC) that demanded the production of all emails between the Arkansas Innovative Performance Program (AIPP) personnel and Bryant administrators. Petitioners, Bryant, AFMC, and others, filed a motion to quash, arguing the information was privileged and federally protected. The circuit court denied the motion to quash. The instant petition for writ of certiorari was then filed with the Supreme Court. The Court denied the petition because the order at issue was a mere discovery order in which an alleged discovery violation occurred and because an appeal would provide an adequate remedy. View "Ark. Found. for Med. Care v. Circuit Court " on Justia Law