In 1988, the Kansas legislature enacted K.S.A. 60-19a02 to limit personal injury plaintiffs’ recovery for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.  Thirty years later, in a 4-2 decision handed down on Friday, June 14th, Hilburn v. Enerpipe Ltd. put an end to non-economic damage caps in Kansas personal injury cases.  This change does not apply to wrongful death cases or punitive damages, but it will affect non-economic damages in future medical malpractice cases as well as those currently pending in Kansas state courts.
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Unfortunately, workplace violence is in the news every day.  OSHA is paying increasing attention to the workplace violence issue, particularly in the healthcare industry.  While there is no specific OSHA regulation addressing workplace violence, a recent decision supports OSHA’s use of the General Duty Clause in workplace violence cases in the healthcare industry.

In Secretary of Labor v. Integra Health Management, No 13-1124 (March 4, 2019), the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) upheld a violation of the General Duty Clause when it found an employer did not adequately address workplace violence hazards.  In that case, the company employed “service coordinators” to help its clients obtain medical care.  Health insurers send the clients to Integra after reviewing claim histories to identify individuals who are not receiving appropriate care.  In this case, a service coordinator was assigned to visit a client at his home and that service coordinator made notes in her report that the client made her “uncomfortable” and detailed his strange behavior.  On a following visit to the client, the service coordinator was stabbed by the client nine times and died.
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On January 10, 2018, citing costs associated with record increases in the number of qui tam actions filed under the False Claims Act, the Department of Justice issued a memorandum[1] to certain DOJ attorneys, strongly signaling the Department’s intent to liberalize its use of section 3730(c)(2)(A) to seek dismissal of qui tam actions.

In the recently leaked memo, Michael Granston, Director of the Fraud Section of DOJ’s Commercial Litigation Branch, outlines “a general framework for evaluating when to seek dismissal” by identifying seven factors that have supported DOJ’s previous successful dismissal requests and emphasizes that the Department views its dismissal authority as one subject only to “highly deferential” review by the courts. The memo suggests DOJ will seek dismissal of these actions more often, making use of its authority to seek dismissal as “an important tool to advance the government’s interests, preserve limited resources, and avoid adverse precedent.” As further indication that the Department intends to pursue aggressively any available means of dismissal of these cases, the Director also recommends asserting in the alternative other independently available grounds for dismissal or requesting partial dismissal where appropriate, and the memo reminds attorneys that dismissal may occur at any stage of the proceedings, depending on the circumstances. The Director also stresses the importance of communication between the DOJ, the affected agency, and relators as a means of encouraging voluntary dismissal.
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abaEmerging Issues in Healthcare Law is coming to the Big Easy. The American Bar Association’s 18th annual conference is slated for New Orleans March 8-11.

Husch Blackwell is a platinum sponsor of this event featuring the most emergent topics facing the healthcare bar. As the industry faces changes and continues to grow under healthcare reform and enforcement, this conference allows attendees a perfect opportunity to stay ahead of the developments.
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white collarAs most are aware, on May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its much anticipated final rule, drastically increasing the salary requirements to qualify as an exempt executive, administrative or professional employee. The DOL estimates that the final rule will extend overtime protections to 4.2 million workers in the first year of implementation and boost wages by $12 billion over the next 10 years. The rule is set to become effective Dec. 1, 2016.
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gavel-scales2013%20052[The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which imposes a penalty of $500-$1,500 per violation for pre-recorded or auto-dialed calls to cell phones, contains two statutory exceptions to liability:

  • where the recipient of the call provided his or her prior express consent to be called, or
  • where the call was placed for an “emergency purpose.”

47 U.S.C. § 227 (b)(1). While much attention has been focused on “consent,” the FCC’s definition of “emergency purpose” has remained relatively untested in TCPA litigation.

That landscape may be beginning to change. The federal district court’s recent decision in the putative class action lawsuit Roberts v. Medco Health Solutions, et al., No. 4:15 CV 1368 CDP (E.D. Mo., July 26, 2016) recognized that consistent with the FCC’s promulgated definition, the emergency purpose exception must be interpreted broadly to cover any calls that may affect the health and safety of a consumer.
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Gun controlRecently, Husch Blackwell partners Stephen Cockerham and Kevin Koronka presented a webinar to Texas employers concerning the impact legislation concerning gun rights may have on employers. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over Texas federal district courts, recently released a decision concerning employee gun rights of which employers, particularly those with Mississippi employees, should take note.
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gavel-scales2013%20052[On Wednesday, July 20, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed two lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, one, Cause 1:16-cv-01494, seeking to stop the proposed merger between Aetna and Humana (valued at $37 billion) and the other, Cause 1:16-cv-01493, seeking to stop the acquisition of Cigna by Anthem (valued at $54 billion).
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gavel-scales2013%20052[The out-of-network (OON) business model faces challenges as the result of changes to health and benefit plan OON coverage, but a ruling by Judge Hoyt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas suggests that health plans should be careful in refusing payment based on perceived OON high charges, questions about OON co-insurance collection, or provider financial arrangements.
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gavel2-touched upIn some courts in the United States today, a government contractor or a healthcare provider seeking reimbursement from a federal program can violate the False Claims Act even when its work is satisfactory and its invoices are correct. Under the theory of “implied certification,” a minor instance of non-compliance with one of the thousands of applicable statutes, regulations, and contract provisions can be the basis for a federal investigation, years of litigation, as well as fines, penalties, suspension and debarment, even imprisonment of company personnel.
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