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  Health Care - Legal News


In the war being waged by large corporations against individual rights — and, yes, it is a war — a potentially decisive battle was recently fought. It will come as little surprise to any informed observer of American society that it was not the little guy who won.

The U.S. Supreme Court case of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. vs. Superior Court of California, which was decided in favor of BMS in June, may seem like an arcane question of legal jurisdiction. It’s anything but.

The case centered on a drug called Plavix that BMS developed. Plavix, also known by its generic name, clopidogrel, is an anti-platelet used to prevent blood from clotting inside blood vessels. Ever since the drug was approved by the FDA in 1997, thousands of people have claimed that it caused them gastrointestinal bleeding, severe bleeding from relatively minor cuts, and even brain damage.

Even though the company had significant business activities in California, as well as sales of Plavix and other drugs, a contract with a California distributor to distribute Plavix nationally, and employed hundreds of people in the state, BMS argued that California state courts could not exercise “personal jurisdiction” over the company for claims brought on behalf of people who lived, used Plavix, and were allegedly injured by the drug outside of California.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of BMS is a staggering blow for millions of Americans harmed each year by the reckless and abusive behavior of pharmaceutical companies. The decision raises an almost insurmountably high hurdle between victims and their hopes for obtaining justice in state courts throughout the country.

By foreclosing to plaintiffs’ state court venues other than those where these companies are “at home” — generally meaning where they are headquartered or incorporated — the Supreme Court has placed an almost impossible burden on state court litigants. They will now be forced to sue in far-off courts, convince experts to travel out of state to testify, and shuttle between their home states and wherever the drug company is at home. Their alternative will be pursing claims in federal court — but still also likely in a different state — where they will be subject to different laws, rules, and standards to prove their claims.


A federal appeals court panel has lifted an order blocking restrictions on how the abortion pill is administered in Arkansas, saying a judge didn't estimate how many women would be burdened by the law's requirements.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Friday vacated U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker's preliminary injunction against the 2015 law. The measure requires doctors providing the pill to maintain a contract with another physician with admitting privileges at a hospital who agrees to handle any complications.

The panel said Baker should look into the number of women who would be unduly burdened by the contracting physician requirement and whether it amounts to a "large fraction" of women seeking the abortion pill in Arkansas.



Uncertainty over the future of health care for millions grew deeper Monday as insurers released a blueprint for stabilizing wobbly markets and the Trump administration left in limbo billions of dollars in federal payments.

At the federal courthouse, the administration and House Republicans asked appeals judges for a 90-day extension in a case that involves federal payments to reduce deductibles and copayments for people with modest incomes who buy their own policies. The fate of $7 billion in “cost-sharing subsidies” remains under a cloud as insurers finalize their premium requests for next year.

The court case is known as House v. Price. In requesting the extension, lawyers for the Trump administration and the House said the parties are continuing to work on measures, “including potential legislative action,” to resolve the issue. Requests for extensions are usually granted routinely.

Hours before the filing, a major insurer group released a framework for market stability that relies in part on a continuation of such subsidies.

The BlueCross BlueShield Association represents plans that are the backbone of insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, and would also be the mainstay with a Republican approach.

As the GOP-led Congress works on rolling back major parts of the Obama law, the BlueCross BlueShield plan called for:

Continued protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and sustained federal funding to offset the cost of care for the sickest patients.

More leeway for states to experiment with health insurance benefits, with a basic floor of federal standards.

Preserving ACA consumer safeguards including no lifetime caps on benefits, no higher premium for women based on gender, and a requirement that insurers spend a minimum of 80 cents of every premium dollar on medical care.


A media advocacy group and the American Civil Liberties Union are asking Missouri's highest court to settle whether the state's prison system must reveal the closely guarded source of the drug it uses in executions.

The nonprofit Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs asked the Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday to review the matter, saying the issue has led to conflicting lower-court rulings.

The Missouri Department of Corrections has refused to disclose who supplies it with pentobarbital, saying suppliers' identities are shielded as part of its "execution team."

But the sources of the drugs in Missouri and other death-penalty states are widely believed to be compounding pharmacies, which make drugs tailored to a client's specific needs. Those pharmacies do not face the same approval process or testing standards of larger pharmaceutical companies, spawning lawsuits by watchdogs pressing for them to be publicly known and properly scrutinized.

Wednesday's filing insisted that "any resolution of this question directly affects the ability of the public to exercise effective oversight."

"Transparency is critical for the public to maintain trust in the manner in which executions are carried out in this state," the filing added. "Given this court's special, constitutionally enshrined role in monitoring executions in Missouri, it is in the best position to resolve this issue of immense public interest."

The Missouri Department of Corrections has not returned calls left Thursday morning seeking comment.

The Missouri Court of Appeals' Western District ruled in February that prison administrators aren't obligated to divulge who supplies the execution drugs, overturning a 2016 trial court ruling that found the state wrongly withheld documents that would identify pharmaceutical suppliers.



Neighbors' efforts to block the reopening of a mine in a historic Nevada mining town have unearthed a legal question about whether emails kept by elected officials on their personal devices are public records.

The Comstock Residents Association wants the Nevada Supreme Court to order Lyon County to release communications between county commissioners and Comstock Mining Inc. ahead of a January 2014 decision to allow mining again at Silver City.

The question focuses on whether the public has a right to government information contained on personal electronic devices and in personal email accounts.

Senior Washoe County District Court Judge Steven Kosach rejected the request earlier this year, ruling records on personal devices and accounts are outside the public agency's control and aren't covered under the Nevada Public Records Act.

The judge also found the communications were not official actions. But he acknowledged his ruling "may cause public employees to skirt the provision of the (public records law) by conducting business on their personal devices," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Barry Smith, director of the Nevada Press Association, said the lower court ruling allows the "electronic version of the old backroom deal."

"Officials could avoid the open-records law by conducting public business through their private phones and email accounts," Smith said.

In a brief filed Nov. 7 with the state high court, association attorney Luke Busby said the court's decision would provide "critical guidance" to public officials about access to public records.

In court filings, Busby noted that then-Commissioner Vida Keller said at the January 2014 commission meeting that she had contacted her colleagues outside the public meeting regarding the land-use change.

"As it turned out, Commissioner Keller and other members of the Lyon County Commissioners used their personal devices or email accounts to conduct official business," Busby said. "An otherwise public record does not lose public status simply because it was created, received or stored on a personal device or personal account."



A Lexington abortion clinic has asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court ruling that closed the clinic.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the Kentucky Court of Appeals on June 15 reversed a Fayette Circuit Court ruling and granted the Bevin administration's request to close the EMW Women's Clinic of Lexington until it receives a license from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services or until a final judgment is rendered in the case.

The clinic, represented by attorney Scott White, asked the highest court for a reversal Tuesday. White says the clinic is basically "shut down."

At issue is whether the clinic may operate as an unlicensed doctor's office that performs abortions, as it has for years, or whether it is a full abortion clinic that requires state licensing.

Kentucky's only licensed abortion clinic is in Louisville.



The Supreme Court has rejected another challenge to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The justices on Tuesday left in place lower court rulings that dismissed a lawsuit against the national health care law. The suit argues that the law violates the provision of the Constitution that requires tax-raising bills to originate in the House of Representatives.

The court has twice turned back major challenges to the law, in opinions written by Chief Justice John Roberts in 2012 and in June. The court also has allowed family-owned businesses with religious objections to opt out of paying for contraceptives for women covered under their health plans. The Pacific Legal Foundation backed the latest lawsuit, filed on behalf of small-business owner Matt Sissel.

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