Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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Neurosurgeon Donald Blaskiewicz, M.D. went to work for the Spine Institute of Idaho (the “Spine Institute” or the “Institute”) in 2018. The Spine Institute entered into a Professional Services Agreement (the PSA) with Blaskiewicz containing a non-compete clause, contractually proscribing Blaskiewicz from practicing medicine within fifty miles of the Spine Institute’s office (with an explicit exception for Caldwell) for a period of eighteen months, should his employment with the Spine Institute be terminated for any reason. Pursuant to the PSA, Blaskiewicz had two ways to avoid the non-compete clause: he could either get permission from the Spine Institute to practice medicine within the proscribed area, or he could pay the Spine Institute $350,000 in “liquidated damages.” The PSA also required any disputes to be resolved by arbitration. Less than a year and a half after hiring Blaskiewicz, the Spine Institute terminated his employment. Blaskiewicz filed suit in district court, seeking a declaratory judgment that the non-compete clause was unenforceable. The district court concluded that the non-compete clause was against public policy and void as a matter of law, and granted summary judgment in favor of Blaskiewicz. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the district court did not cite or analyze the statutes governing non-compete agreements in Idaho. The Court concluded there were genuine issues of material fact such that summary judgment was inappropriate as to whether the non-compete provision was void as a matter of public policy or otherwise enforceable. View "Blaskiewicz v. Spine Institute of Idaho" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit certified a question of law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. In June 2005, Poly-Med, Inc. (Poly-Med) entered into a Sale of Materials and License Agreement with the predecessor in interest to Defendants Novus Scientific Pte. Ltd., Novus Scientific, Inc., and Novus Scientific AB (collectively, Novus). The Agreement required Poly-Med to develop a surgical mesh for Novus's exclusive use in hernia-repair products. The dispute between Poly-Med and Novus arose from two ongoing obligations in the parties' Agreement. As characterized by the Fourth Circuit, the alleged breach of the Agreement centered on the contractual provisions that contained these two obligations: the "hernia-only" provision and the "patent-application" provisions. The federal court asked whether, under a contract with continuing rights and obligations, did South Carolina law recognize the continuing breach theory in applying the statute of limitations to breach-of-contract claims, such that claims for separate breaches that occurred (or were only first discovered) within the statutory period are not time-barred, notwithstanding the prior occurrence and/or discovery of breaches as to which the statute of limitations has expired? The Supreme Court found South Carolina did not recognize the continuing breach theory. "Moreover, it may matter greatly 'if the breaches are of the same character or type as the previous breaches now barred.'" Nevertheless, in a contract action, the Court held it was the intent of the parties that controlled: "Whether separate breaches of the same character or type as time-barred breaches trigger a new, separate statute of limitations depends on the parties' contractual relationship—specifically, what the parties intended." View "Poly-Med, Inc. v. Novus Scientific Pte. Ltd., et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from a district court's order denying injunctive relief, holding that this Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal.Plaintiffs were ten students at Creighton University who brought this petition seeking to enjoin Creighton from administratively withdrawing students who did not comply with its COVID-19 vaccine policy. After a hearing, the district court denied the petitions, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to show irreparable harm or a likelihood of success on the merits. Plaintiffs appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the court's denial of a temporary injunction was not a final order, and therefore, this Court lacked jurisdiction over the appeal. View "Ramaekers v. Creighton University" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a neurosurgeon, chose to use implants distributed by DS Medical, a company wholly owned by his fiancée. Physicians in other practices grew suspicious and filed various claims under the False Claims Act. The jury returned a verdict for the government on two of the three claims. The district court then awarded treble damages and statutory penalties in the amount of $5,495,931.22. Following the verdict, the government moved to dismiss its two remaining claims without prejudice, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2), on the ground that any recovery would be “smaller and duplicative of what the [c]ourt ha[d] already awarded.”   The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded for a new trial. The court explained that are several ways to prove that a claim is “false or fraudulent” under the False Claims Act. One of them is to show that it “includes items or services resulting from a violation” of the anti-kickback statute. This case required the court to determine what the words “resulting from” mean. The court concluded that it creates a but-for causal requirement between an anti-kickback violation and the “items or services” included in the claim. Thus, the court reversed and remanded because district court did not instruct the jury along these lines. View "United States v. Midwest Neurosurgeons, LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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In this COVID-19 pandemic-related case, the Seventh Circuit vacated in part the judgment of the district court granting Loyola University of Chicago's motion to dismiss this complaint brought by Plaintiffs, three undergraduate students, for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, holding that Plaintiffs pled enough to withstand dismissal for failure to state a claim and that Plaintiffs were entitled to leave to amend to save their alternative claim for unjust enrichment.As a result of the pandemic, Loyola suspended all in-person instruction during the Spring 2020 semester, curtailed access to campus facilities, and moved all instruction online. Plaintiffs brought a putative class action lawsuit against Loyola, arguing that the decision to shut down Loyola's campus deprived them of promised services, such as in-person instruction and access to on-campus facilities, in exchange for tuition and fees. The district court granted Loyola's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs sufficiently pled a claim for breach of an implied contract under Illinois law; and (2) Plaintiffs adequately pled an unjust enrichment claim in the alternative. View "Gociman v. Loyola University of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Sean Kelly appealed the grant of summary judgment to the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) on employment discrimination and breach-of-contract claims arising from UVMMC’s decision not to extend his one-year medical fellowship. UVMMC selected plaintiff for the 2017-18 fellowship. UVMMC was aware that plaintiff suffered from an adrenal deficiency that had delayed the completion of his residency. In the first five months of the fellowship, plaintiff missed nineteen full days and parts of nine more days for various reasons. By February 2018, after missing several more days and expressing that he felt “frustrated with [his] absences” and “overall inadequate as a fellow,” program personnel became concerned that plaintiff was falling behind in his training. In a March 30 meeting, the program director told plaintiff his performance had “deficiencies and these need[ed] to be addressed.” At some point during this period, the director also told plaintiff he “should plan on extending [his] fellowship due to [his] time out and some minor deficits through August.” Plaintiff emailed other program personnel expressing frustration at the prospect of staying through August to complete his training. On April 14, 2018, plaintiff suffered a stroke, and on April 19th he attempted suicide. He was hospitalized from April 14 through May 3 and was not cleared to return to work until June 1, 2018. In all, plaintiff missed approximately six more weeks of the fellowship. On or about May 31, the director called plaintiff and told him that while UVMMC had determined he needed six more months of training to finish the fellowship, it could not accommodate additional training for that length of time. UVMMC paid plaintiff his remaining salary. Plaintiff filed a grievance under the Graduate Medical Education rules; the grievance committee affirmed UVMMC's decision. Because the decision not to extend his fellowship was an academic decision, there was no employment action and consequently no adverse employment action. The Vermont Supreme Court did not find plaintiff's arguments on appeal persuasive, and affirmed the grant of summary judgment in UVMMC's favor. View "Kelly v. University of Vermont Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying the motion to dismiss this complaint brought by Colectivo Coffee Roasters against Society Insurance, holding that the district court erred.Collective, which experienced substantial monetary losses as a result of the COVID-10 pandemic and related government restrictions on in-person dining, brought this class action complaint against Society seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and damages for breach of contract, alleging that Society was required to compensate it for the business income it lost during the pandemic. Society filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that none of the policy's coverage provisions applied. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Colectivo failed to state a claim for coverage under the Society policy's business income, extra expense, civil authority, or contamination provisions. View "Colectivo Coffee Roasters, Inc. v. Society Insurance" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Lisa French went to respondents Centura Health Corporation and Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado d/b/a St. Anthony North Health Campus (collectively, “Centura”) for surgery. Upon reviewing French’s insurance information prior to surgery, Centura advised her that she would personally be responsible for $1,336.90 of the amounts to be billed. After the surgery, however, Centura determined that it had misread French’s insurance card and that she was, in fact, an out-of-network patient. Centura then billed French $229,112.13 and ultimately sued her to collect. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to review: (1) whether here, Centura’s database used by listing rates for specific medical services and supplies, was incorporated by reference into hospital services agreements (“HSAs”) that French had signed; and (2) if so, whether the price term in the HSAs was sufficiently unambiguous to render the HSAs enforceable. The Court concluded that because French neither had knowledge of nor assented to the chargemaster, which was not referenced in the HSA or disclosed to her, the chargemaster was not incorporated by reference into the HSA. Accordingly, the HSA left its price term open, and therefore, the jury appropriately determined that term. The Court reverse the judgment of the division below, and did not decide whether the price that French was to pay was unambiguous, even if the HSA incorporated the chargemaster. View "French v. Centura Health" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the trial court awarding Plaintiff $200,309 in damages for Defendants' breach of a lease agreement, holding that the trial court improperly allocated the burden of proof as to mitigation in determining the damages award.At issue in this appeal was how the executive orders issued by Governor Ned Lamont during the earliest months of the COVID-19 pandemic affected the enforceability of a commercial lease agreement for premises that Defendants leased from Plaintiff. Both parties appealed from the judgment of the trial court awarding Plaintiff damages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the trial court (1) did not err in determining that the economic effects of the executive orders did not relieve Defendants of their obligations under the lease agreement; but (2) improperly relieved Defendants of their burden of proving that Plaintiff's efforts were commercially unreasonable under the circumstances, thus necessitating a new damages hearing. View "AGW Sono Partners, LLC v. Downtown Soho, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hospitals provided emergency medical services to members of the county’s health plan, which is licensed and regulated by the state Department of Managed Health Care under the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act, Health & Saf. Code 1340. The county reimbursed the Hospitals for $28,500 of a claimed $144,000. The Hospitals sued, alleging breach of an implied-in-fact or implied-in-law contract. The trial court rejected the county’s argument that it is immune from the Hospitals’ suit under the Government Claims Act (Gov. Code 810).The court of appeal reversed. The county is immune from common law claims under the Government Claims Act and the Hospitals did not state a claim for breach of an implied-in-fact contract. The county does not contest its obligation to reimburse the Hospitals for the reasonable and customary value of the services; the issue is what remedies may be pursued against the county when the reasonableness of the reimbursement is disputed. The Knox-Keene Act provides alternative mechanisms to challenge the amount of emergency medical services reimbursements. A health care service plan has greater remedies against a private health care service plan than it does against a public entity health care service plan, a result driven by the Legislature broadly immunizing public entities from common law claims and electing not to abrogate that immunity in this context. View "County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court" on Justia Law