Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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A jury returned a $4 million verdict in favor of Plaintiff Jana Bracewell, Administratix of the Estate of Cameron Chase Hill, in a medical negligence/wrongful-death suit against Defendants, B. Michael Weber, M.D., and The OB-GYN Group of Laurel, P.A. Defendants appealed the judgment, claiming the trial court erred by denying their posttrial motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, a new trial. Plaintiff cross-appealed, claiming the trial court erred by reducing the jury’s noneconomic-damages award. Dr. Weber’s partner, Dr. Robert DeSantis, was Erica Shae Hill’s primary OB-GYN throughout her pregnancy. On November 23, 2001, Hill went into labor around 2:30 a.m.; she went to South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel, Mississippi. Dr. Weber, who was on call for Dr. DeSantis that night, managed Hill’s care throughout labor, and he delivered Cameron Chase Hill by vaginal delivery at approximately 1:10 p.m. that afternoon. Cameron and Hill were discharged on November 25, 2001. The next day, Cameron was taken to Forrest General Hospital because he was not eating. Cameron ultimately was diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a neurological injury resulting from lack of oxygen to the brain. According to Defendants, Cameron’s Forrest General Hospital records for his admission shortly after birth included a secondary diagnosis of “viral meningits – NOS.” Cameron lived only to age five. Plaintiff filed a complaint in December 2002 on behalf of Cameron, alleging negligence on the part of Dr. Weber and The OB-GYN Group of Laurel. The complaint claimed that Dr. Weber breached the applicable standard of care by failing to recognize, appreciate, and respond to the signs and symptoms of fetal distress, ischemia, and/or hypoxia during the labor and delivery of Cameron. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no error in the trial court’s decision to deny Defendants’ motion for a JNOV or a new trial. As to Plaintiff’s cross-appeal, the Court agreed that the trial court erred by reducing the jury’s noneconomic-damages award, given that this action was filed before September 1, 2004, the date the amended version of Section 11-1-60(2)(a) went into effect. View "Weber, et al. v. Estate of Hill" on Justia Law

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Bettye McNutt filed a complaint against Dr. Vivian Sze Ting Lo, Methodist-Olive Branch Hospital (Methodist), and others asserting the wrongful death of her son due to medical malpractice. Because Dr. Lo had not been served with a presuit notice of claim, the circuit court dismissed the claims against Dr. Lo and, because the statute of limitations had expired, the dismissal was with prejudice. After Dr. Lo’s dismissal, Methodist filed a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that McNutt’s vicarious liability claims based on Dr. Lo’s conduct were extinguished when Dr. Lo was dismissed with prejudice. The circuit court denied the motion for partial summary judgment, and Methodist appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the circuit court properly denied partial summary judgment. Although Dr. Lo was dismissed with prejudice, the dismissal was not an adjudication on the merits, and McNutt did not enter into a settlement release and indemnity agreement with Dr. Lo. View "Methodist Healthcare-Olive Branch Hospital v. McNutt" on Justia Law

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Carolyn Bowen sued Cottage Grove Nursing Home for wrongful death and medical negligence on behalf of her husband, Guy Bowen. Guy Bowen had been a resident of Cottage Grove since June 2016. In May 2017, Guy was diagnosed with prostate cancer that had metastasized into his organs and bones. In October 2017, Guy fell in the shower at Cottage Grove and sustained multiple fractures. The attending radiologist noted that the fractures were likely pathologic. Guy was transferred to a rehabilitation facility and then to Pleasant Hill Nursing Home. Guy did not return to Cottage Grove. On March 18, 2018, Guy presented to the emergency department at UMMC with various pain. A CT scan showed diffuse metastatic disease through his liver and widespread osseous disease in his bones. Guy died five days later. Carolyn in her suit, Carolyn claimed that Guy’s fall at Cottage Grove, in which he sustained multiple fractures, was the cause of Guy’s death five months later. Cottage Grove filed a summary-judgment motion for Carolyn’s failure to produce medical-expert testimony. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the trial court erred by denying Cottage Grove’s summary-judgment motion. "Cottage Grove met its summary-judgment burden by showing that Carolyn had failed to produce sworn expert testimony establishing a prima facie case of medical negligence." View "Cottage Grove Nursing Home, L.P. v. Bowen" on Justia Law

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Methodist Specialty Care Center was the only nursing facility for the severely disabled (NFSD) in Mississippi. NFSDs generally incur higher costs than other nursing facilities, and because of this, Methodist received a percentage adjustment to its new-bed-value (NBV) calculation when the Mississippi Division of Medicaid (DOM) determined how much it should reimburse Methodist for its property costs through the DOM’s fair-rental system. A NBV was intended to reflect what it would cost to put a new bed into service in a nursing facility today. Methodist had received a NBV adjustment of 328.178 percent added to the standard NBV every year since it opened in 2004 until State Plan Amendment (SPA) 15-004 was enacted. During the 2014 Regular Session, the Mississippi Legislature passed House Bill 1275, which authorized the DOM to update and revise several provisions within the State Plan; one such amendment changed Methodist's adjustment rate, and made the facility experience a substantial decrease in its NBV, while all other nursing facilities in the state received increases. Methodist appealed the DOM’s changes to its NBV that were enacted in SPA 15-004. After a hearing, an Administrative Hearing Officer (AHO) upheld the decreased percentage adjustment to Methodist’s NBV, but also determined the DOM had miscalculated Methodist’s NBV adjustment. The DOM had planned to calculate Methodist’s adjustment as 175 percent of the base NBV, but the AHO found that Methodist’s adjusted NBV should be calculated in the same manner as it was calculated preamendment - by taking 175 percent of the standard NBV and adding that value to the standard NBV. Methodist still felt aggrieved because its NBV adjustment rate had not been restored to the preamendment rate. Methodist appealed the DOM’s final decision to the Chancery Court. When the chancellor affirmed the DOM’s final decision, Methodist appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court found the DOM’s final decision was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary or capricious, did not violate Methodist’s constitutional or statutory rights and that the DOM was acting within its power in reaching and adopting its final decision. View "Methodist Specialty Care Center v. Mississippi Division of Medicaid" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Division of Medicaid (DOM) appealed a chancery court judgment ordering the DOM to reverse the adjustments for “Legend Drug” costs reported by Windsor Place Nursing Center, Inc., d/b/a Windsor Place Nursing & Rehab Center (Windsor) and Billdora Senior Care, Lexington Manor Senior Care, and Magnolia Senior Care (collectively Senior Care). The chancery court found that legend drug expenses incurred by these providers were properly reported on each of their Long Term Care (LTC) cost reports as an allowable cost and should have been taken into account the by DOM in determining the per diem rates for each provider. The DOM contends that its decision to disallow the legend drug expenses claimed by the providers in their required cost report for reporting years 2005, 2007, and 2008 was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary or capricious, and was within its authority to decide. Therefore, the chancery court’s order must be reversed and the DOM’s decision must be reinstated. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the DOM. "No where in the controlling statutes, the state plan, or Medicaid’s policy do we see language that lends itself to a construction taken by the providers that all prescription drug costs “not covered” by the Medicaid drug program means drug costs 'not paid for' by Medicaid. ... While the DOM may have failed to catch this in the past, legend drugs covered by Medicaid’s Drug Program are subject to direct reimbursement from Medicaid to the dispensing pharmacist, and constitute a non-allowable cost for the provider’s pier diem reimbursement report. And any action taken to the contrary by Medicaid is a violation of its rules and regulations." View "Mississippi Division of Medicaid v. Windsor Place Nursing Center, Inc. et al." on Justia Law

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The Mississippi State Department of Health entered a final order approving a Certificate of Need for Wound Care Management, LLC, d/b/a MedCentris for the “[p]rovision of [d]igital [s]ubtraction [a]ngiography (DSA) services (Limb Salvage Program).” Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC, d/b/a Merit Health River Region, a hospital in Vicksburg that opposed the certificate of need, appealed the Department’s statutorily affirmed decision pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 41-7-201(2) (Rev. 2018). After considering the record and issues presented, the Mississippi Supreme Court entered an order on its own motion requiring supplemental briefing regarding whether Section 41-7-201(2), as amended, governed the appeal process pertaining to facilities established for the private practice, either independently or by incorporated medical groups of physicians. The Supreme Court held that River Region lacked the right to petition the chancery court for review of the certificate of need under Section 41-7-201(2). Accordingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the case and remanded it to the Hinds County Chancery Court for further proceedings. View "Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC v. Mississippi Dept. of Health & Wound Care Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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In May, 2015, Spencer Wolfe was being treated for high blood pressure and was prescribed two milligrams of hydralazine two times a day. Some time between May 20, 2015, and May 27, 2015, Wolfe had this prescription filled at Delta Discount Drugs. Delta, however, allegedly mis-filled Wolfe’s prescription with twenty-five milligram tablets of hydroxyzine, rather than the prescribed two milligram tablets of hydralazine. Less than a month later, on June 19, 2015, Wolfe was hospitalized after he had blacked out while driving. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review was whether a claim asserted against a pharmacy for allegedly mis-filling a prescription was subject to the two-year professional-malpractice statute of limitations in Mississippi Code Section 15-1-36 or the three-year catch-all statute of limitations in Mississippi Code Section 15-1-49. The Circuit Court ruled that Section 15-1-36 applied to Wolfe’s claims against Delta Discount Drugs and granted Delta’s motion to dismiss with prejudice because Wolfe’s claims were filed beyond the two-year statute of limitations found in Section 15-1- 36. Aggrieved, Wolfe has timely appealed to this Court. After review, and finding no reversible error in that decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wolfe v. Delta Discount Drugs, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sixteen-year old Julisa Matute, along with her sister and father, were involved in a motor-vehicle accident in Harrison County, Mississippi. Julisa was transported to Mobile, Alabama, and was admitted to University of South Alabama Medical Center, a hospital operated by University of South Alabama (USA). Julisa died there intestate. Julisa’s mother and sister executed an authorization for the donation of Julisa’s organs with the Alabama Organ Center (AOC). An estate was opened; Julisa’s mother was appointed administratrix of the Estate. Shortly thereafter notice was served to creditors, USA probated a claim against the Estate for medical expenses. The Estate filed a “complaint to contest illegal probated claim and compulsory counterclaim,” alleging that before Julisa’s death, USA representatives approached Julisa’s family and asked that they donate her organs and, in turn, Julisa’s hospital bill incurred at USA would be “totally wiped out and not be collected.” As a result of this alleged agreement, the Estate contested USA’s probated claim and asserted that the “probated claim [wa]s null and void and uncollectable.” In a counterclaim, the Estate alleged emotional distress, fraud, and punitive damages because, according to the Estate, “[t]he hospital told [Julisa’s family] that the bill would be wiped clean for allowing them to have [Julisa’s] organs . . . .” A wrongful-death lawsuit related to the motor-vehicle accident was filed then by the Estate. A settlement was reached among the parties in September 2018. Months later, a hearing was held on USA’s contested probated claim. The chancellor entered a judgment approving the Estate’s Petition to Receive First and Final Accounting, Discharge Administratrix and Close Estate. USA filed a motion to alter or amend the order granting the Estate’s Petition to Approve Settlement of Claims of Wrongful Death Beneficiaries of Julisa, and asserted that the chancellor’s reference to a “hospital lien claim” was erroneous. The chancellor denied the motion. USA timely appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that while the chancellor properly denied USA's probated claim as uncollectable, the chancellor erred in finding the probated claim was invalid and erroneously ruled on USA's hospital-lien claim. As a result, the chancery court's judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Julisa Matute" on Justia Law

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Central Mississippi Medical Center (CMMC) appealed a Chancery Court decision denying its appeal of a Division of Medicaid (DOM) hearing. The DOM had determined that CMMC owed it $1.226 million due to overpayment. The Mississippi Supreme Court recently decided a reimbursement dispute involving the DOM, Crossgates River Oaks Hosp. v. Miss. Div. of Medicaid, 240 So. 3d 385 (Miss. 2018). In Crossgates, the hospitals prevailed because the DOM had failed to adhere to the Medicare State Plan Agreement. Applying the same legal principles to this case, the Supreme Court ruled the DOM prevailed because the DOM adhered to the Plan. The chancellor found sufficient evidence to support the DOM’s decision, decreed that it was neither arbitrary nor capricious, and decreed that it did not exceed the DOM’s authority or violate any of CMMC’s statutory or constitutional rights. View "Central Mississippi Medical Center v. Mississippi Division of Medicaid" on Justia Law

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Mary Thomas awoke, paralyzed, after surgery. She filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Adam Lewis, who performed the surgery, claiming her injuries stemmed from two neurosurgeries performed by Dr. Lewis. Thomas also filed suit against Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic and Central Mississippi Medical Center based on vicarious liability. Thomas’s medical malpractice claims were based on an alleged failure of Dr. Lewis to manage Thomas’s mean arterial blood pressure during the first surgery and Dr. Lewis’s decision to perform the second surgery. However, the issue on appeal involved the reliability of expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Thomas’s expert, neurosurgeon Dr. Neil Wright, claimed that Dr. Lewis had failed to provide the proper standard of care and, in turn, caused Thomas’s injuries. However, Dr. Lewis argued that Dr. Wright’s opinions were not reliable because they were inconsistent with medical literature. The trial court agreed, struck Dr. Wright’s opinions, and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Dr. Lewis with regard to the first surgery. The trial court also ruled that Dr. Wright could testify to negligence regarding the second surgery. The trial court allowed Thomas to proceed on claims related to the second surgery. Dr. Wright admitted that the decision to perform the second surgery was a judgment call and that he failed to testify that making the decision to proceed with a second surgery was a breach of the standard of care. The trial court considered the evidence and found that Mary Thomas had failed to offer admissible proof from which a reasonable juror could find that Dr. Lewis deviated from a professional standard of care. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of Dr. Lewis, Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, and Central Mississippi Medical Center, and Thomas appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Thomas v. Lewis" on Justia Law