Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part in this case brought against three Maine government officials in their official capacities (collectively, the State) and several healthcare providers (the Providers) by Plaintiffs, seven healthcare workers whose employment was vaccinated after they refused to accept COVID-19 vaccination (collectively, the Providers), holding that the court erred in dismissing certain claims.In 2021, under the "Mandate," Maine required certain healthcare facilities to ensure that their non-remote workers were vaccinated against COVID-19. Plaintiffs alleged that their sincerely-held religious beliefs prevented them from receiving any of the available COVID-19 vaccines and requested that their employers, the Providers, exempt them from the vaccination requirement. The Providers refused and terminated Plaintiffs' employment. Plaintiffs brought this suit alleging several claims. The district court dismissed the complaint in its entirety. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) did not err in dismissing Plaintiffs' claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; but (2) erred in dismissing Plaintiffs' claims for relief under the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses. View "Lowe v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Kent County Memorial Hospital and Michael Dacey, M.D., in his individual capacity and as President of Kent Hospital, and dismissing Richard Gilbert, M.D.'s suit challenging the Hospital Board of Trustees' revocation of Dr. Gilbert's privileges at Kent Hospital, holding that dismissal was proper.In granting summary judgment for Defendants, the district court concluded that Dr. Gilbert had not rebutted the presumption that Defendants were immune from liability in damages under the Health Care Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA), 42 U.S.C. 11101-11152, and immune from suit under Rhode Island state law. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the Board was entitled to HCQIA immunity; and (2) the Board was entitled to immunity under R.I. Gen. Laws 23-17-23(b). View "Gilbert v. Kent County Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that Act 90, passed by the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico in 2019, was preempted by federal law, holding that the district court did not err.Act 90 requires that Medicare Advantage plans compensate Puerto Rico healthcare providers in Puerto Rico at the same rate as providers are compensated under traditional Medicare. Plaintiffs, several entities that managed Medicare Advantage plans, filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction barring the "mandated price provision," arguing that the Medicare Advantage Act preempted the challenged provision and that provision was unconstitutional. The district court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Act 90's mandated price provision was preempted by federal law. View "Medicaid & Medicare Advantage Products Ass'n of Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Emanuelli-Hernandez" on Justia Law

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In these two different qui tam cases in which the United States executed a settlement agreement with AthenaHealth, Inc. and multiple relators, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Relators' denial of their claims for attorneys' fees, holding that the district court did not err.Relators Cheryl Lovell and William McKusick appealed from the district court's denial of their entire claim for attorneys' fees under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., and relator Georgie Sandborn appealed from the omission of certain claimed fees from his attorneys' fees award. The First Circuit (1) affirmed as to Lovell and McKusick, holding that these relators did not receive a relator's share and so were not entitled to attorneys' fees; and (2) affirmed as to Sanborn, thus rejecting his argument that he may be allowed fees associated with his claim, in which the government did not intervene. View "United States, ex rel. Lovell v. AthenaHealth, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence of twenty-four months' imprisonment imposed in connection with his plea of guilty to health care fraud, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable.Defendant pleaded guilty to health care fraud for his multiyear scheme to defraud MaineCare, a state-run program that administers Medicaid benefits in the state of Maine and reimburses Maine health care providers for MaineCare services. After a hearing, the court varied downward and imposed a sentence of twenty-four months' imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence, holding (1) the district court did not err in its loss calculations or in imposing a four-level leader/organizer enhancement; and (2) Defendant's downward variant sentence satisfied the substantive reasonableness standard. View "United States v. Ahmed" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Calvary Chapel of Bangor's (Calvary) complaint against Maine Governor Janet Mills raising several facial and as-applied constitutional and statutory challenges to the Governor's executive orders seeking to slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, holding that the complaint was moot and that no mootness exception could save it.Calvary sued the Governor in federal court claiming that the Governor's orders at issue discriminated against Calvary by treating religious gatherings less favorably than other gatherings. Calvary requested a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, a permanent injunction, and a declaratory judgment. The district court denied relief and dismissed the complaint. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that this case was moot and that no exception to mootness applied. View "Calvary Chapel of Bangor v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the conclusion of the district court that the Maine Medical Marijuana Act's requirement that officers and directors of medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Maine be Maine residents violates the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, holding that that Maine residency requirement violates the dormant Commerce Clause.Plaintiffs brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 28 U.S.C. 2201 alleging that the Act's residence requirement violates the dormant Commerce Clause by permitting only in-staters to serve as officers or directors of dispensaries. The district court granted judgment for Plaintiffs. On appeal, Defendants argued that because the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. 801 et seq., makes marijuana contraband, the residency requirement does not run afoul of the dormant Commerce Clause. The First Circuit disagreed, noting that "a congressional exercise of commerce power can never, merely by being in place, displace the dormant Commerce Clause." The Court then affirmed, holding that "nothing on the face of the CSA purports to bless interstate discrimination in the market for medical marijuana that continues to operate even in the face of the CSA." View "Northeast Patients Group v. United Cannabis Patients & Caregivers of Maine" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed this appeal from the dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit filed by Plaintiffs, two college students, against Defendants, their former universities and university officials, asserting constitutional challenges to the universities' COVID-19 vaccination policies, holding that Plaintiffs' claims are moot.The policies at issue required all students either to be vaccinated or to obtain an exemption to be allowed onto campus. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief seeking exemptions from the policies. The district court denied relief and granted Defendants' motion to dismiss. The First Circuit dismissed Plaintiffs' ensuing appeal, holding that where one student had graduated and the other student was no longer enrolled, Plaintiffs' claims were moot. View "Harris v. University of Massachusetts, Lowell" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied an emergency stay sought by Plaintiffs of a disclosure order in this challenge to the Maine vaccine mandate for healthcare workers as it stood on October 19, 2021, holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to the stay.For this first ten months of this case Plaintiffs were allowed to proceed under pseudonyms. Upon a motion by intervenor press/media organizations, the district court ordered Plaintiffs to file an amended complaint identifying by name the individual plaintiffs, finding that Plaintiffs did not meet their burden of rebutting the presumption against parties proceeding under pseudonyms. Plaintiffs filed an appeal from the disclosure order and sought an emergency stay of that order until resolution of their appeal on the merits. The First Circuit denied the stay, holding that the public interest and the media intervenors' interests weighed in favor of denying the stay due to the presumption of public access. View "Does v. Mills" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying motion for a preliminary injunction sought by Appellants, then-employees of Mass General Brigham, Inc. (MGB), to stop their employer's application of its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy to them, holding that the district court did not err.In November 2021, Appellants bought this action. The district court denied a preliminary injunction. Appellants then noticed an appeal and also sought emergency injunctive relief from the First Circuit. The First Circuit held that they had not met the requirements for an injunction pending appeal. Now that the merits of Appellants' appeal were before the Court, the First Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction, holding that the district court correctly denied relief. View "Together Employees v. Mass General Brigham Inc." on Justia Law