Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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The Court of Appeals answered a certified question of law by concluding that the then-Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbara of the Court of Appeals acted within her authority and consistently with the Maryland Constitution when she issued an administrative order temporarily tolling statutes of limitations under Maryland law with respect to civil actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.On April 24, 2020, the Chief issued an administrative order that temporarily tolled statutes in civil cases during the state of emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a commercial dispute between the parties in this case, the timeliness of certain claims and the diversity jurisdiction of the federal court depended on the validity of the Chief Justice's administrative tolling order and whether the order violated the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The Court of Appeals held that the Chief Justice acted within her authority when she issued the administrative tolling order concerning the timeliness of the complaints filed in Maryland during the pandemic. View "Murphy v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings erred in declining Petitioner's request to be represented by counsel at an administrative hearing regarding the approval to give Petitioner forced medication, holding that the ALJ erred.Petitioner, a patient at a psychiatric institution, refused to take prescribed psychotropic medication. After a panel approved forced medication, Petitioner requested a hearing. On the day of the hearing, Petitioner asked for counsel. The ALJ treated the request for counsel as a request for a postponement, concluding that there was not good cause to postpone the hearing, and convened the hearing with Petitioner unrepresented. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) under the plain language of HG 10-708 an individual possesses a right to counsel upon request; (2) an on-the-record waiver colloquy of the kind required in a criminal case is unnecessary, but there must be verification that the individual has knowingly and voluntarily waived the right to counsel and elected to proceed without representation; and (3) the ALJ erred in declining Petitioner's request to be presented by counsel at the administrative hearing. View "Mercer v. Thomas B. Finan Center" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the order of the circuit court directing that Saint Luke Institute, Inc. (SLI) produce a patient's mental health records under seal, holding that the circuit court erred by failing to conduct the necessary statutory relevancy analysis required by the Maryland Confidentiality of Medical Records Act, Md. Code Ann. Health-Gen 4-301 through 309.Plaintiffs filed a civil case in Massachusetts alleging that they were sexually abused by a brother or member of a religious order while they were residing in a children's group home that employed the brother. Plaintiffs filed a proceeding in Maryland seeking discovery of the brother's mental health records they believed were in the custody of SLI, a Maryland facility. The circuit court entered an order directing the SLI to produce the brother's mental health records under seal. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed and outlined the process to be undertaken by the trial court prior to disclosure of mental health records requested by a private litigant in a civil case, holding that remand was required. View "St. Luke Institute v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of circuit court judge upholding the order of the administrative law judge (ALJ) ordering Gregory Johnson's involuntary medication, holding that there was no error in the order authorizing Johnson's involuntary medication.Johnson was charged with attempted first-degree murder and related offenses. The circuit court found Johnson incompetent to stand trial and dangerous and committed him for treatment to a state-run forensic psychiatric hospital. After Johnson repeatedly refused to take prescribed antipsychotic medication the Maryland Department of Health began the process to administer the medication to Johnson involuntarily. An ALJ ordered Johnson's involuntary medication to restore him to competency, and the circuit court upheld the order. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Maryland law authorizes involuntary medication to restore an individual's competence to stand trial and does not violate separation of powers by entrusting an ALJ with the power to order such medication subject to judicial review; and (2) because the Department and the ALJ met due process requirements, there was no error in the order authorizing Johnson's involuntary medication. View "Johnson v. Department of Health" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that Md. Code Crim. Proc. (CP) 3-121(e), which sets forth the process for issuing a hospital warrant and recommitment pending a hearing on a petition for revocation or modification, does not violate due process under either the United States Constitution or the Maryland Declaration of Rights.Upon pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, Appellant was found not criminally responsible and committed to the Health Department. After Appellant was conditionally released pursuant to court order the State filed a petition for revocation or modification of her conditional release on the basis that she had violated a condition of her release. The circuit court issued a hospital warrant, acting pursuant to CP 3-121. Appellant was subsequently recommitted to a mental health facility in anticipation of a required hearing. Appellant filed a petition for habeas corpus arguing that recommitment of a person alleged to have violated conditional release must include a finding that the committed person was currently danger to self or to the person or property of others. The habeas court denied the petition. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that CP 3-121 appropriately balances the interests of society against a committed individual's conditional liberty interest. View "Simms v. Maryland Department of Health" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgments of the Court of Special Appeals and circuit court dismissing D.L.'s petition for judicial review challenging her involuntary admission to a facility operated by Sheppard Pratt Health Systems, Inc. as moot based on her release from Sheppard Pratt, holding that D.L. faced collateral consequences as a result of her involuntary admission, and therefore, her appeal was not moot.An ALJ involuntarily admitted D.L. to Sheppard Pratt. After she was released, D.L. petitioned for judicial review. The circuit court granted Sheppard Pratt's motion to dismiss on grounds of mootness because D.L. had already been released from the facility. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that D.L. was subject to collateral consequences stemming from her involuntary admission, and therefore, the circuit court erred in dismissing the case as moot. View "D.L. v. Sheppard Pratt Health System Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed an administrative law judge's (ALJ) finding that Petitioner was responsible for indicated child neglect under Md. Code Ann. Fam. Law (Fam. Law) 5-701(s), holding that intent or scienter is not an element of child neglect under Fam. Law 5-701(s).Defendant forgot to drop his seventeen-month-old son off at daycare before going to work. The child was found in the car more than six hours later and pronounced dead at the scene. St. Mary's County Department of Social Services rendered a finding of indicated child neglect against Defendant. An ALJ concluded that the Department had established by a preponderance of the evidence that the finding of indicated child neglect was supported by credible evidence and consistent with the law. The circuit court affirmed. At issue on appeal was whether "neglect" under Fam. Law 5-701(s) requires proof of an element of scienter. The Court of Special Appeals held that the statute does not require scienter. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the plain language of the statute excludes intent as an element of child neglect. View "Junek v. St. Mary's County Department of Social Services" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments of the circuit court and Court of Special Appeals that there were no errors of procedure or substantive law on the part of Respondents - the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center (Hospital) and the Maryland Department of Health - and the administrative law judge (ALJ) in determining that Petitioner met the requirements for involuntary admission to the psychiatric unit of the Hospital.The Court held (1) the ALJ did not err in finding that Petitioner’s hearing on involuntary admission complied with the ten-day deadline for an involuntary admission hearing set forth in Md. Code Ann. Health-Gen. 10-632(b); and (2) there was substantial support in the record for the ALJ’s finding that Petitioner presented a danger to the life or safety of herself or of others at the time of the hearing. View "In re J.C.N." on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law
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The process of involuntary admission of an individual begins with the initiation application for involuntary admission and ends upon a hearing officer’s decision whether to admit or release that individual. If, during the process, a physician applies the statutory criteria for involuntary admission and concludes, in good faith, that the individual no longer meets those criteria, the facility must release the individual. The physician’s decision is immune from civil liability and cannot be the basis of a jury verdict for medical malpractice.Brandon Mackey was taken to Bon Secours Hospital pursuant to an application for involuntary admission after he attempted to commit suicide. Dr. Leroy Bell treated Mackey. Two days before a scheduled hearing to determine whether Mackey should be admitted involuntarily or released, Dr. Bell authorized Mackey’s release. Thereafter, Mackey committed suicide. Plaintiff brought suit contending that Dr. Bell, and Bon Secours vicariously as his employer, were negligent in releasing Mackey. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Chance. The circuit court vacated the judgment based in part on its understanding of the immunity statute. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Dr. Bell’s decision to discharge Mackey, made in good faith and with reasonable grounds, was immune from liability. View "Bell v. Chance" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Attorney General has authority to request injunctive relief against a nursing facility pursuant to two different provisions of the Patient’s Bill of Rights, a comprehensive statutory scheme enacted to identify and protect individuals’ rights in Maryland nursing facilities.The State sought an injunction against Defendant, a nursing facility. The trial court concluded that the allegations in the State’s complaint, if true, would be in violation of the Patient’s Bill of Rights but that the Injunction Clause did not authorize the kind of broad injunctive relief the State sought and that the State lacked authority to sue for an injunction under the Enforcement Clause. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) under Md. Code Ann. Health-Gen. 19-345.3(c), the Attorney General may bring suit on behalf of individual residents who have been subjected to, or away, imminent, unlawful involuntary discharges if at least one individual’s statutory rights have been violated, and a court may issue injunctive relief for violations of Md. Code Ann. Health-Gen. 19-345, 19-345.1 and 19-345.2; and (2) the Attorney General’s authority to prosecute violations of Md. Code Ann. Health-Gen. 19-344(c)(4)-(5) permits the Attorney General to seek an injunctive to enforce certain provisions related to the Medicaid application process. View "State v. Neiswanger Management Services, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law