Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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Before Genevieve Franke’s death in 2014, she had been a resident of a nursing home. In 2013, Genevieve agreed to sell her farmland to her son John Franke at a price below its fair market value. Laurie Berggren, Genevieve's daughter, subsequently petitioned for the appointment of a conservator. The court appointed Laurie as Genevieve’s temporary conservator and Cornerstone Bank as Genevieve’s permanent conservator. Both Genevieve and John appealed. Before the parties filed briefs, Genevieve’s attorney filed a suggestion of death stating that Genevieve had died. Genevieve, through her attorney of record, sought an order to dismiss the appeal as moot and to vacate the county court’s order appointing a permanent conservator. John, in turn, moved for an order reviving the appeal. The Supreme Court overruled both of these motions, holding (1) Genevieve’s attorney has no standing to represent her in the Court after her death; (2) Genevieve’s death has abated John’s appeal, for which he has standing, because her competency and need for a conservator are moot issues; and (3) the abatement of John’s appeal does not require the Court to vacate the county court’s orders appointing a conservator. View "In re Conservatorship of Franke" on Justia Law

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Under Neb. Rev. Stat. 71-1207, a mental health board “shall” hold a hearing within seven days after the subject is taken into emergency protective custody. Appellant was convicted of sexual assault on a child. Before Appellant finished his sentence, the Mental Health Board of the Fourth Judicial District (Board) issued a warrant directing that Appellant remain in custody under the Sex Offender Commitment Act (SOCA) until a commitment hearing. The hearing was held approximately five weeks later. The Board determined that Appellant was a dangerous sex offender and placed him in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services for inpatient treatment. Appellant petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that the Board’s failure to hold a hearing within seven days violated the SOCA and his right to due process. The district court dismissed Appellant’s habeas petition, concluding that the seven-day time limit in section 71-1207 is directory, not mandatory. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the seven-day time limit for holding a hearing under the statute is directory, and therefore, the untimeliness of the commitment hearing in this case did not deprive the Board of jurisdiction. View "D.I. v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s minor daughter, Brayden, who suffers from Coffin-Lowry Syndrome, had been receiving home and community-based waiver services for approximately twelve years when the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) determined that she no longer qualified for waiver services and terminated the services. Plaintiff filed this action on behalf of Brayden, contending that DHHS used the wrong criteria to evaluate Brayden’s eligibility and erred in finding that she did not qualify for waiver services. The district court affirmed the termination of those services. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) DHHS’ creation and use of exhibit 4, the assessment document used to evaluate children with disabilities, to evaluate Brayden was arbitrary and produced an unreasonable result; and (2) DHHS should have found that Brayden qualified for waiver services. View "Merie B. v. State" on Justia Law

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Rhonda was the mother and sole surviving parent of Benjamin, a twenty-two-year-old incapacitated adult. Rhonda filed a petition for the appointment of a guardian for Benjamin and nominated herself as guardian. The county court appointed an unrelated individual as Benjamin’s guardian without making findings or providing an explanation for passing over Rhonda. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the appointment was arbitrary and capricious, as the county court appointed the unrelated individual as Benjamin’s guardian without specific findings, any explanation for bypassing Rhonda’s statutory priority for appointment, or any reason readily apparent in the evidentiary record. View "In re Guardianship of Benjamin E." on Justia Law

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In 1998, a trust was established for the care of Evelyn A. Nabity. In 2011, Evelyn amended the trust agreement that changed the identity of the trustees. In 2012, Evelyn’s son, Robert, petitioned for the appointment of a guardian, conservator, and guardian ad litem for Evelyn and for registration and administration of the trust. Robert argued that Evelyn had not been competent to amend the trust agreement and requested a determination of the proper trustees. In the trust administration proceeding, the county court found that Evelyn was not competent to execute the trust amendment and entered an order declaring Robert and his brother cotrustees. In the guardianship proceeding, the county court set aside a health care power of attorney Evelyn executed in 1998 and ordered Robert to serve as Evelyn’s permanent guardian and conservator. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was clear and convincing evidence that Evelyn was incompetent to execute the amendments to the trust agreement; and (2) the appointment of a permanent guardian and conservator for Evelyn did not deny her the benefit of a valid health care power of attorney. View "In re Trust Created by Nabity" on Justia Law

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Appellant filed this action against Prairie Fields Family Medicine, P.C., bringing claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy and alleging that a Prairie Fields employee disclosed her positive HIV test results to a third party, and as a result, the information spread throughout the community where Appellant did business and had friends. The district court (1) dismissed Appellant’s invasion of privacy claim, concluding that it was time barred; and (2) granted summary judgment for Prairie Fields on Appellant’s claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, concluding that Appellant failed to create an issue of fact that someone from Prairie Fields had disclosed her diagnosis to a third party. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s summary judgment order, holding that Appellant raised a genuine issue of material fact that someone at Prairie Fields disclosed information from her private medical records. Remanded. View "C.E. v. Prairie Fields Family Med., P.C." on Justia Law

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This was the second appeal in this case. Doctor, who was licensed to practice medicine in Nebraska and Washington, entered into an assurance of compliance with the Attorney General due to unprofessional conduct. The assurance of compliance was made part of Doctor's public record. Consequently, Doctor alleged that the Washington Department of Health learned via public record of the assurance of compliance and initiated a disciplinary action against him. Doctor was also made ineligible with the American Board of Family Medicine. Doctor filed a complaint against the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General alleging that the Attorney General fraudulently and negligently misrepresented the adverse effects of the assurance of compliance. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, finding the misrepresentation claims to be contract claims subject to, and barred by, the State Contract Claims Act (Act). Doctor again appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Doctor's claims were subject to, and barred by, the Act. View "Zawaideh v. Dep't of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law

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This was an appeal after summary judgment in a medical malpractice action. A kidney donor brought suit after his donated kidney was rendered useless by allegedly negligent medical treatment provided to the donee. At issue was whether a duty of care is owed to a kidney donor by the physicians providing posttransplant treatment to the donee. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the physicians. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in this instance, a physician does not owe a duty of care to a kidney donor during the posttransplant treatment and care of the donee, and therefore, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the defendants. View "Olson v. Wrenshall" on Justia Law

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Bradley Green, a paraplegic, sued Box Butte General Hospital after he fell and injured his left shoulder while admitted as a patient. The hospital allowed Green to have his shower chair brought from home and to attempt an unassisted transfer from his wheelchair to the shower chair. Green alleged the hospital was negligent and that it had failed to exercise a degree of skill and care ordinarily exercised by hospitals in the area or similarly situated areas. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Green on liability and proximate cause and ultimately found damages of $3,733,022, which it capped at $1 million. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the district court erred in granting partial summary judgment, as Green failed to establish each element of his cause of action as a matter of law. View "Green v. Box Butte Gen. Hosp." on Justia Law

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The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provided Medicaid benefits for Virginia Lee Cushing during the final years of her life. After her death, DHHS filed a claim against Cushing's estate for recovery of the benefits pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 68-919. The personal representative of the estate appealed from an order of the county court allowing the claim and awarding interest. At issue on appeal was whether DHHS timely presented its claim and, if so, whether it was proved as a matter of law. The Supreme Court concluded the claim was both timely presented and proved as a matter of law but modified the award of interest. View "In re Estate of Cushing" on Justia Law