New Jersey Appeals Court Says Plaintiffs Don’t Need Presuit Affidavits to Sue LPNs in Medical Malpractice Cases

Author and Attorney HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In a possibly precedent-setting case, on November 9, 2022, for the first time, an appeals court in New Jersey ruled that plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases do not need an affidavit of merit to file claims against a licensed practical nurse (LPNs). The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, said that an LPN is not included in the “licensed person” definition under the state’s affidavit of merit statute.

Additionally, the court’s ruling stated that an LPN could not use the absence of such an affidavit to avoid a medical malpractice suit. In this case, the malpractice suit was brought by a widower who says his wife died as a result of bad medical advice given by her LPN.

Allegations Made in the Lawsuit.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant (an LPN) responded to his complaints about his wife being in pain and unable to eat following her colon surgery by blaming the issue on “post-operative gas.” After allegedly ignoring numerous messages he left regarding her condition, the LPN allegedly told the husband to give his wife, Pepto Bismol. The following day, his wife died, according to the lawsuit.

In July 2020, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim on behalf of himself as the administrator of his wife’s estate. The lawsuit originally named the doctor, Virtua Surgical Group, and an unknown nurse. Following discovery, the plaintiff dismissed the claims against the doctor and Virtua Surgical Group, and proceeded against only the LPN. According to the opinion, the plaintiff alleged that the LPN was negligent in providing medical advice and in failing to consult with her doctor.

You can view the court’s opinion in full here on our website.

Is a Licensed Practical Nurse a “Licensed Person” Covered by the AOM Statute?

In New Jersey professional negligence cases, plaintiffs must file an “affidavit of merit,” or AOM, signed by a licensed medical professional, before they are allowed to sue those [professionals for malpractice. This results from a tort reform package passed by the state government in 1995.

Why there hasn’t been a case similar to this one, or lobbying by LPNs to sew up the legal “loophole” before now, is unclear.

Like many similar state statutes passed around the same time, the New Jersey statute was designed to balance between reducing frivolous lawsuits and permitting injured plaintiffs recovery for meritorious claims. According to the court’s decision, a plaintiff claiming “malpractice or negligence by a licensed person” must file an “affidavit of an appropriate licensed person” who can attest that there is a “reasonable probability” that defendant’s conduct “fell outside acceptable professional or occupational standards or treatment practices.”

The defendant in this case argued that since the nursing portion of the statute defines “the practice of nursing” for “a registered professional nurse,” the Legislature intended for licensed practical nurses to be included. However, the New Jersey appeals court held that the tort reform package would not protect the LPN from the lawsuit because she was a different kind of nurse from a registered nurse.

In his written opinion for the court, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert J. Gilson considered whether a licensed practical nurse is a “licensed person” covered under the AOM statute. “The AOM statute expressly uses the term ‘a registered professional nurse.’ Yet, nowhere in that definition of a registered professional nurse is there a reference to a licensed practical nurse,” he added.

Gilson stated in the court’s opinion that the Legislature was aware that it had separately defined the two types of nurses. In other words, if it had wanted to protect LPNs at the same time as it was protecting RNs, it could have done so. Therefore, the plaintiff was allowed to pursue claims without an AOM. However, the plaintiff would still be required to prove the defendant’s negligence to succeed.

Click here to view the opinion in full.

Click here to read one of our related blogs about legal issues LPNs often face.

Who Is a “Professional” and What Is “Malpractice”?

“Malpractice” is usually defined as the negligence of or the breach of a professional duty by a professional. In other words, professional negligence.

How do we determine who is a “professional” then? The simple rule of thumb is that anyone who is required to have a license in order to perform his or her occupation is a professional. Thus, under this definition, we have attorneys, dentists, accountants, architects, engineers, funeral directors, teachers, all are required to have licenses, depending upon what state they are in. Thus there can be accounting malpractice, engineering malpractice, architectural malpractice and, yes, even legal malpractice. Under this definition, a licensed practical nurse would be considered a professional who could commit nursing malpractice.

However, if the wording of law limits coverage to only certain listed professions, and other professions are left out, then only the ones specifically listed will be covered by its application.

Is the Decision Limited or Possibly Widespread?

The decision appears to be a correct one based on the wording of the New Jersey statute. If “licensed practical nurses” was not a category of licensed professionals included by the Legislature in the New Jersey statute, then the courts should not “read them into” coverage by the statute. Unfortunately, this was probably merely an oversight on the part of whatever bill drafter and committee proposed the legislation in the first place. Licensed practical nurses and their professional associations should immediately lobby the Legislature of New Jersey to have the “loophole” filled.

Whether similar results are possible in other states will depend on the wording of the similar laws in those states. For example, Florida has a somewhat similar statute, but it does not actually name the specific category of medical provider covered by the act (e.g., “medical doctor,” “chiropractor”). Instead, the Florida Law, Section 766.202, Florida Statutes, refers to those covered by the medical malpractice statute as “any person licensed under part I of chapter 464, Florida Statutes. . . .[etc.]” Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and advanced nurse practitioners are all licensed under that part and chapter of the Florida law. So a problem similar to the one in New Jersey never arises.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Representing Nurses and Handling Licensing Issues.

If you are applying for a nursing or healthcare license, have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, you must contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood; it is not recommended that you pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney. The Health Law Firm routinely represents nurses, physicians, dentists, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.

To contact The Health Law Firm, call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Karpan, Andrew. “No Affidavit Needed To Sue ‘Practical’ Nurses, NJ Court Says.” Law360. (November 9, 2022). Web.

Murphy, Colleen. “NJ Appeals Court: No Affidavit of Merit Needed for Negligence Claim Against Licensed Practical Nurse.” Law.com. (November 10, 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax them to (407) 331-3030

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2023-01-24T11:08:41-05:00January 24th, 2023|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Walgreens Accused of Providing Insufficient COBRA Notices, Class Action Lawsuit Says

Lawyer, Author HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 30, 2022, a group of former Walgreens workers filed a proposed class action in Florida federal court that accuses the pharmacy chain of sending confusing, incomplete COBRA notices. The former employees sued, saying the company purposely sent former employees “haphazard and piecemeal” information about their rights to continued insurance coverage under the federal COBRA law to save itself money.

As a result, the lawsuit claims, they lost access to their medical coverage when they were terminated and, therefore, had to pay out-of-pocket to cover medical expenses.

Details of the Class Action.

The plaintiffs filed the class action complaint against Walgreens Co. in the United States District Court Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This federal law provides details on what employer-sponsored health plans must do.

The plaintiffs claim they were all terminated from Walgreens between 2018 and 2020 for reasons not related to gross misconduct, they said in their complaint. After their termination, they received COBRA notices that are required to be written in a manner that an average plan participant could understand. However, rather than receiving one document clearly outlining that information on their post-employment COBRA benefits, they received multiple separately mailed documents that lacked critical information, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit claims the first notice failed to include an address indicating where COBRA payments should be mailed. “It also fails to explain how to enroll in COBRA, nor does it bother including a physical election form,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit states that a second notice contained some but not all of the required information.

The insufficient COBRA notices confused and misled the plaintiffs and caused them economic injuries in the form of lost health insurance and informational injuries, they claim.

Similar Suits Against Walgreens.

Because similar lawsuits alleging deficient COBRA notices have been filed against Walgreens before, the pharmacy chain was aware that its notices were inconsistent with the Department of Labor’s model, alleged the workers. Therefore, they claim its choice to use a non-compliant notice was in “deliberate or reckless disregard” of the workers’ rights.

The plaintiffs seek to represent a class of all Walgreens health care plan participants and beneficiaries who were sent similar COBRA notices during the applicable statute of limitations period and did not elect to continue coverage.

The plaintiffs seek reinstatement of their right to coverage, damages, fees, and costs. Click here to read the complaint.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for pharmacists and pharmacies, as well as all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

Sources:

Edwards, Jesse. “Walgreens class action claims company fails to provide legal COBRA notices.” Top Class Actions. (December 5, 2022). Web.

Freedman, Emily. “Walgreens Provides Deficient COBRA Notices, Suit Says.” Law360. (December 1, 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Humana Agrees To Pay $11.2 Million to End Nurses’ Overtime Suit

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On September 27, 2021, Humana agreed to pay $11.2 million to end claims that the health insurance company denied a group of nurses overtime pay by misclassifying them as exempt employees. A Wisconsin federal judge approved the deal with Humana, and a group of more than 200 nurses reached, securing a $36,000 average payment for each nurse involved in the suit.

A Violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

This dispute stems from a class-action lawsuit filed in 2017 alleging that Humana misclassified its clinical nurse advisers as exempt employees and denied them overtime compensation, violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Many professionals and supervisors or managerial employees are considered to be exempt from overtime laws.

In the suit, the company faced allegations from nurses who claimed they were never paid for overtime even though they were required to work more than 40 hours per week to meet Humana’s production goals and expectations.

The Settlement.

The settlement agreement will allocate almost $3 million to cover attorney fees and costs. Additionally, the 221 nurses that are part of the settling class will get nearly $8 million based on the number of full-time weeks the nurses worked. According to the motion, the average payment per nurse for unpaid overtime and liquidated damages will be over $36,000.

The case is O’Leary v. Humana Insurance Co., et al., case number 17-cv-1774, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Click here to view the court’s brief in full.

To read about another case dealing with alleged pay discrimination in the healthcare field, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely provide legal representation to nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, dentists, dental assistants, physicians, physician assistants, mental health counselors, and other health providers. We also provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings. We provide legal representation across the U.S., not just in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Spezzemonte, Irene. “Humana To Pay $11.2M To End Nurses’ Misclassification Suit.” Law360. (September 27, 2021). Web.

Webster, Katherine. “Court OKs $11.2M Overtime Settlement Between Humana, Nurses.” Top Class Actions. (September 30, 2021). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

 

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law

 

 

 

 

 

NAPB Sends False Examination Results to Hundreds of Pharmacy Graduates. Again.

Author HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 19, 2022, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) was hit with a proposed class action lawsuit after falsely reporting that individuals had failed the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). This is reportedly the second year in a row the NABP had mistakenly informed hundreds of pharmacy graduates that they failed their pharmacy board examination when, in fact, they passed.

The Importance of the NAPLEX.

For many pharmacists, a passing score on the NAPLEX examination is critical to their license to practice. NABP’s website states, “The NAPLEX is an important part of the licensure process.” Failure to pass the examination may damage a reputation and cause loss of residency and employment opportunities. This case stresses that NAPLEX is the culmination of the academic careers of those who have received a doctor of pharmacy degree and are about to advance into their professional lives.

“A passing score often confirms a job contract, residency, or other opportunities,” the complaint reads. “A failing score, however, leads not only to trauma and distress but also to demotions or even a rescinded job offers [sic] or residencies. The trauma and distress that came with [candidates] being told they had failed cannot be understated.”

The Significance of This Case.

The scoring error impacted the test results of over 200 people who took the NAPLEX between July 30, 2022, through October 26, 2022. NABP initially informed these people that they had failed the examination. However, the filing said it took the NABP roughly two months to inform test takers of the test-scoring mistakes. The NABP issued a statement on their website; read it here.

The Second Year Running.

This is not the NABP’s first failure to properly score the NAPLEX. In 2021, after implementing its new pass-fail scoring method, it reportedly published incorrect test results for more than 400 students. As a result, some were told they failed when they passed, while others who failed were wrongly told that they passed. Therefore, the NABP knew about the problems with the NAPLEX scoring system since the same thing happened to more than 400 students last year, the lawsuit relays.

Click here to view the complaint in full.

Contact Us for an Initial Consultation on an Irregular Behavior Case or Any Other Misconduct Associated with Health Professional Examinations.

Contact our firm, and we will be happy to discuss your irregular behavior case before you decide on hiring an attorney. Contact us if you are accused of improper conduct, cheating, improperly sharing examination content or any other type of misconduct associated with medical examinations. For additional information, click here to read our E-book on “Tips for Answering Allegations of Irregular Behavior For USMLE Step Exams.”

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education, and those being challenged by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent interns, residents, fellows, and medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, supervisors, residency programs, and dismissal hearings. We have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete necessary parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), and many other matters. In addition, we routinely help those who have disputes with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), and many other medical, nursing, pharmacy, dental examinations, and certification processes, including on hearings and appeals concerning “Irregular Behavior,” “unprofessionalism,” and “Irregular Conduct.” We also represent physicians with legal problems with the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) or other certification organizations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Rizzi, Corrado. “‘Pharmageddon’: National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Sued Over Second Time Issuing False Failing NAPLEX Scores.” ClassAction.org. (November 19, 2022). Web.

Stokes, Patrick. “Hundreds Who Failed Pharmacy Boards Actually Passed.” (November 19, 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law? He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

2022-12-28T13:12:48-05:00December 28th, 2022|Categories: Medical Education Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Walgreens Accused of Providing Insufficient COBRA Notices, Class Action Says

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 30, 2022, a group of former Walgreens workers filed a proposed class action in Florida federal court that accuses the pharmacy chain of sending confusing, incomplete COBRA notices. The former employees sued, saying the company purposely sent former employees “haphazard and piece-meal” information about their rights to continued insurance coverage under the federal COBRA law to save itself money.

As a result, they lost access to their medical coverage when terminated and therefore had to pay out of pocket to cover medical expenses.

Details of the Class Action.

The plaintiffs filed the class action complaint against Walgreen Co. in the United States District Court Middle District of Florida Tampa Division, alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

They were all terminated from Walgreens between 2018 and 2020 for reasons not related to gross misconduct, they said in their complaint. After their termination, they received COBRA notices that needed to be written in a manner that an average plan participant could understand. However, rather than receiving one document outlining that information on COBRA, they received multiple separately mailed documents that lacked critical information, according to the complaint.

The first notice fails to include an address indicating where COBRA payments should be mailed. “It also fails to explain how to actually enroll in COBRA, nor does it bother including a physical election form,” the lawsuit alleges.

A second notice sent contains some but not all of the required information, the lawsuit states.

The insufficient COBRA notices confused and misled the plaintiffs and caused them economic injuries in the form of lost health insurance and informational injuries, they claim.

Similar Suits Against Walgreens.

Because similar lawsuits alleging deficient COBRA notices have been filed against Walgreens before, the pharmacy chain was aware that its notices were inconsistent with the Department of Labor’s model, alleged the workers. Therefore, they claim that its choice to use a non-compliant notice was in “deliberate or reckless disregard” to the workers’ rights.

The plaintiffs seek to represent a class of all Walgreens health care plan participants and beneficiaries who were sent similar COBRA notices during the applicable statute of limitations period and did not elect to continue coverage.

The plaintiffs seek reinstatement of their right to coverage, damages, fees, and costs. Click here to read the complaint.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists and any other healthcare provider. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions, and in complex litigation. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent pharmacists accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

 

Sources:

Edwards, Jesse. “Walgreens class action claims company fails to provide legal COBRA notices.” Top Class Actions. (December 5, 2022). Web.

Freedman, Emily. “Walgreens Provides Deficient COBRA Notices, Suit Says.” Law360. (December 1, 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax them to (407) 331-3030

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Ex-Surgery Technician Slaps Georgia Urology Practice With Federal Discrimination Lawsuit

Attorney and Author HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 7, 2022, a former surgical technician hit a Georgia urology practice with a federal discrimination lawsuit, claiming it denied him a raise after complaining that a co-worker threatened him because of his sexuality. The plaintiff sued Georgia Urology, P.A., alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and various state laws. He said that in addition to harassment from co-workers, management denied him a predetermined raise after he complained about an unnecessary, unlawful disclosure of his medical history and denied him overtime pay. He is seeking back pay and future pay (front pay), lost benefits, and other damages.

Alleged Ongoing Harassment.

Georgia Urology hired the former surgical tech in July 2020, and shortly after this, he alleges that his co-workers started referring to him using slurs concerning his sexual orientation. After he reported the statements to the operations director, the interim director of the practice, and the CEO, they told him if he was that unhappy at work, he should find a new job, according to the complaint.

Additionally, as part of his onboarding procedure with the medical practice, the plaintiff was required to take a blood test. According to the complaint, the director of ambulatory surgery centers asked a nurse manager to administer the test and send the results to a lab. In early November 2020, the nurse manager contacted the lab using her company credentials and asked for the plaintiffs’ lab information. But she said she was calling concerning a patient, rather than an employee, of Georgia Urology, he alleged. As a result, the lab disclosed his diagnosis to her, which he said was not a necessary term of employment. The complaint did not indicate any diagnosis.

He reported the breach of privacy to the urology practice’s director of people operations, but she was never disciplined for her actions. Instead, according to the complaint, the nurse manager denied his automatic pay raise several days after, even though he had completed the 90-day probationary period. Furthermore, she later asked him how he was even hired given his diagnosis, he claims later in his complaint.

Alleged Retaliatory Behavior From Co-Workers.

Later in November 2020, he said the nurse manager issued a write-up for an alleged incident that had occurred several weeks before his reporting her for obtaining his medical files. The former surgical tech said the retaliatory write-up was removed from his file, but the defendant never disciplined her for issuing the write-up.

In early December 2020, he again complained to management about the ongoing harassment. In response, the practice agreed to give him his raise on the condition that he “stop whining so much,” but he claims he never received the raise, according to the complaint.

The defendant eventually fired the plaintiff on December 17, 2020, for allegedly creating a staff shortage when he was out sick, even though the practice was not short-staffed. You can read the complaint in this case in full here.

To read about a similar case involving a pharmacist, click here to read one of our prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals.
This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors,
Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical
centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. We represent
facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative
hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of
Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations. Several of our attorneys act as expert witnesses in attorney’s fee litigation and in health law litigation.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Wargo, Abbey. “Ex-Surgery Tech Accuses Urology Practice Of Anti-Gay Bias.” Law360. (November 7, 2020). Web.

Ferrier, Valerie. “Bias Ruling Spotlights Confusion Over Protected Categories.” Law360. (August 25, 2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Maryland & Missouri Become 20th and 21st States to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Lawyer, Author HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Five states had proposals to legalize recreational marijuana on the ballot in the midterm elections held on November 8, 2022. Voters in Maryland and Missouri approved the legalization, while Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota rejected similar proposals. As a result of the vote, Maryland and Missouri became the 20th and 21st states to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use.

Maryland.

Maryland’s voters overwhelmingly approved Question 4 as it passed, with 65% of voters casting ballots in favor. The amendment creates a right to possess and use marijuana and directs the state Legislature to enact laws governing its sale. Following its passage, adults in the state will be allowed to possess up to 1.5 ounces, or two marijuana plants, beginning July 1, 2023.

Additionally, it allows for the expungement of records for people arrested for marijuana possession and for people serving time for simple possession to have their sentences reconsidered. It would also establish a cannabis business assistance fund for small businesses and minority- and women-owned companies entering the cannabis industry.

Next up, the state’s lawmakers will decide on licensing and taxation.

Missouri.

Missouri voters passed Amendment 3, with 53% of voters in favor. The measure removes existing state prohibitions on marijuana and legalizes the purchase, possession, consumption, use, delivery, manufacture, and sale of marijuana for personal use for adults 21 and older. It also allows individuals with certain marijuana-related offenses to be released from prison, parole, or probation. More specifically, it levies a 6% state tax rate on sales and allows local governments to impose an additional tax rate of up to 3%.

Other States With Drugs On The Ballot.

Three other states with existing medical marijuana programs also saw voters head to the polls to decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana. At the same time, voters in Colorado considered a historic bill to decriminalize certain psychedelics.

Voters in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota rejected proposals to bring the states from medical marijuana use to full recreational legalization.

Lastly, in Colorado, Proposition 122, a bill to decriminalize plant and fungi-based psychedelic compounds, appeared to pass with approximately 51% of the vote narrowly. The passing of this historic measure comes ten years after Colorado made history as one of the first states to legalize retail marijuana by ballot initiative.

For updates on important marijuana laws and policies, check out our Marijuana Law Blog and YouTube page.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Regulatory Matters and Other Health Care Licensing Matters.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists, and pharmacies, participating in the medical marijuana industry. We represent doctors, pharmacies, and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies. We represent health-related businesses and medical professionals in all types of licensing and regulatory matters, including state and federal administrative hearings. Several of our attorneys, including Mr. Indest, act as expert witnesses in attorney’s fee litigation and in health law litigation.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Reisman, Sam. “Maryland And Missouri Legalize Pot, 3 Others Just Say No.” Law360. (November 9, 2020).

Sykes, Stefan. “Here’s how five states voted on the legalization of recreational marijuana.” CNBC. (November 9, 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax them to (407) 331-3030

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Good News and Bad News for ECFMG & USMLE Applicants: Recent Changes for the USMLE Step Exams

Headshot of attorney George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

These are some recently announced changes that could significantly impact anyone seeking to take the USMLE Step exams. This could be construed as good news by many and bad news by many others. Regardless, here it is.

Step 1 Exam Changing to Pass/Fail Grade and Score Reporting.

The USMLE announced recently that it would change the scoring and reporting for Step 1 exam scores. Step 1 score reporting will transition to pass/fail only for administrations on or after January 26, 2022. All of the worry about passing with a low score and how that might affect residency choices will be eliminated by this change.

Number of Attempts for Step 1 or Step 2 Exam Limited to Four (4) Lifetime Attempts.

Remember when you had no limit on the number of times you could take a USMLE Step exam? Remember when it was reduced to a maximum of six (6) attempts, not that long ago? Guess what? Not anymore!

Effective July 1, 2021, the number of attempts you can have to pass any USMLE Step exam will change. The change latest change reduces the total number of allowable attempts from six (6) attempts to four (4) attempts for any single Step exam, including any incomplete attempts. This is in effect for all applications submitted on or after July 1, 2021. So now, examinees who have already attempted any USMLE Step exam four (4) or more times and have not passed, will no longer be eligible to apply for the USMLE exams.

Is it possible to obtain an exemption? Depending on your circumstances, we can petition for one, but that does not mean it will be granted.

Step 2-CS Exam Completely Eliminated!!!!

Remember the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), also known as “der Teufel” (1), that used to be required for Foreign Medical Graduates (now known as “International Medical Graduates” or “IMGs”)? No? Well, I don’t either.

Remember when the Step 2-CS was easily considered the most difficult exam for a foreign medical graduate to pass. Well, I do remember this!

The Step 2-CS (for “clinical skills”) exam was supposed to address any foreign language problems in practicing in the United States. This became, in my opinion, one of the biggest obstacles to for IMGs becoming licensed in the U.S. It was originally discontinued for approximately a year and a half because of problems caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.

Guess what? It doesn’t exist anymore. Accordingly, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), co-sponsors of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) by the USMLE Secretariat, announced on January 26, 2021, that it was discontinuing the Step 2-CS exam.

I guess the powers that be learned when they eliminated the Step 2-CS during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, that it was not so necessary after all. Now it is gone.

“Will it ever return, no it will never return; its fate is still unknown.”(1) There is no expectation that it will ever come back. What do you do now with all of those low score “fails” and lows test score “passes” you previously received on the Step 1 exam and the Step 2-CS? The answer is lost in chaos. We will just have to wait and see.

Major Chinese Medical Schools Disqualified in 2019.

See my next blog on what happened to eight (8) major Chinese medical schools so that their graduates cannot take the Step exams or become licensed in the U.S. anymore. Click here to read about the Chines medical schools.

Endnotes:

(1) German for “the Devil”

(2) Paraphrase of verse from “MTA” [standing for the Boston Metropolitan Transit Authority or subway train] written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes, recorded and made famous by The Kingston Trio in 1959.

(3) Answer to the final question asked at the end of every episode of the Japanese Anime series “Dorohedoro” or “Doro and Doro” (2020) (available on Netflix), about a man named “Caiman” who wakes up one morning with the head of a lizard and amnesia and searches for the reason.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education, and those being challenged by the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent interns, residents, fellows, and medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, supervisors, residency programs, and in dismissal hearings. We have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, and any other matters. We routinely help those who have disputes with the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), including on hearings and appeals concerning “Irregular Behavior,” “unprofessionalism,” and “Irregular Conduct.”

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“USMLE policy updates following Step 2 CS discontinuation.” United States Medical Licensing Examination Announcements. (July 21, 2021). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., L.L.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Eight Major Chinese Medical Schools No Longer Listed in World Directory Relied on by ECFMG and USMLE

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In April 2014, the new World Directory of Medical Schools (“World Directory”) was published. It took over as the definitive list of medical schools in the world (yes, the whole world). There are 180 Chinese medical schools listed on the World Directory of Medical Schools. Medical graduates from these schools are routinely eligible to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step exams, required for licensing in the United States, after applying and obtaining permission through the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

However, in 2019, eight (8) previously recognized Chinese medical schools were dropped from the World Directory or “delisted.” According to the Korean Medical Association (KMA)’s Research Institute for Medical Policy, the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) (the organization that maintains and publishes the directory) deleted the eight Chinese medical schools from the World Directory. The eight (8) Chinese medical schools were delisted from the World Directory of Medical Schools (WDMS) a year after Oriental medical schools in Korea also failed to be listed on the directory any longer.

The eight “delisted” medical schools are Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Guiyang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, Liaoning University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanxi College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Yunnan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

According to the Korean Medical Association’s reports and other publications, the WFME’s decisions clearly show that the world’s medical community does not recognize both Korea’s Oriental medicine and traditional Chinese [Oriental] medicine as modern, scientifically-based medicine.

What Does This Mean?

This means that if you graduated from one of the delisted eight (8) Chinese medical schools, you will no longer be allowed to apply for and receive services from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). In addition, it means you will not be able to apply for and take the Step exams administered by the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and you will not be able to become licensed in the United States.

Hey, Don’t Shoot Me! I’m Just the Messenger!

Inquiries and other correspondence regarding the World Directory may be sent to info@wdoms.org or to:

World Federation for Medical Education
13A Chemin du Levant
01210 Ferney-Voltaire
France
www.wfme.org

What Might Possibly Be Done?

Some ideas that might (or might not) work include:

1. Graduates of the delisted schools might apply for recognized medical schools and seek to graduate from one of these. Whether or not you will be able to get any credit for your prior medical school is a different question.

2. Bring pressure on your delisted medical school to add courses and curricula to meet the same requirements as a “Western” medical school or “scientific medical school.”

3. Sorry, that’s about all I could think of. Petitioning for an exception or suing the ECFMG or USMLE is a “non-starter” by my way of thinking.

To read about a similar case involving a Caribbean medical school, click here.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education, and those being challenged by the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent interns, residents, fellows, and medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, supervisors, residency programs, and in dismissal hearings. We have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, and any other matters. We routinely help those who have disputes with the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), including on hearings and appeals concerning “Irregular Behavior,” “unprofessionalism,” and “Irregular Conduct.”

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Yuqiao, Ji. “TCM [tradional Chinese Medicine] grads struggle after removal from world medical list.” Global Times. (Nov. 18, 2019) (https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1170466.shtml).

Gwang-seok, I. “8 Chinese medical schools delisted from world directory of medical schools.” Korea Biomedical Review. (November 7, 2019). (https://www.koreabiomed.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=6769).

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888)-331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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