Healthcare 

5 big healthcare lawsuits of 2020

Though the healthcare industry spent most of the year attempting to understand and fight the deadly new coronavirus sweeping across the U.S., the legal landscape still saw several companies, patients and organizations go head-to-head on a variety of issues. Here are five big lawsuits of the year.

AbbVie versus Takeda

An AbbVie unit, AbbVie Endocrine Inc., filed a suit against Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., claiming it did not produce the amount of cancer drug Lupron determined in a supply agreement between the two companies, Bloomberg reported. AbbVie Endocrine alleged that the Japanese drug maker either didn’t produce enough units of Lupron or is providing the drug to other customers improperly. But Takeda said that the Lupron shortage was a result of the company fixing manufacturing problems at its plant in Japan that produces the drug.

In the suit, AbbVie said it is seeking the “specific performance” of the supply agreement, as well as damages, according to Bloomberg.

Suzanne Stone versus UnitedHealthcare

Suzanne Stone, who had an employer-provided health plan operated by OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions of California, filed a suit against UnitedHealthcare, OptumHealth’s parent company. The suit alleges that the payer violated the Federal Parity Act and the California Parity Act, which requires that health plans provide equal coverage for mental and physical illnesses.

Stone sent her daughter to an out-of-state residential treatment program for anorexia nervosa, but UnitedHealthcare and Optum denied coverage, leading Stone sue.

In a Nov. 9 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit sided with UnitedHealthcare, saying that the “denial of coverage was based solely on the plan’s exclusion of coverage for out-of-state treatment, which applies equally to mental and physical illnesses.” The appellate court concluded that UnitedHealthcare did not violate the Parity acts.

Lawsuit against Mayo Clinic

A complaint, filed in the Olmsted County District Court, alleges that Mayo Clinic failed to protect patients’ health data after a former employee inappropriately accessed records for more than 1,600 patients, according to the Star Tribune.

In October, the health system disclosed that a former employee accessed the records and viewed names, dates of birth, demographic information, clinical notes and digital images. The employee did not view Social Security or bank account numbers, the Star Tribune reported.

The lead plaintiff, Olga Ryabchuk, was one of the patients whose records were accessed. In the complaint, she alleges the incident violated the Minnesota Health Records Act, which bans unauthorized access to patient health records. She also alleges the employee’s actions invaded her privacy and caused emotional distress.

The filing seeks a class designation for all the patients whose records were viewed, the Star Tribune reported.

ACA legality case

On Nov. 10, the Supreme Court — with the newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett — heard the first arguments in a case that challenges the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. The challengers in the case claimed that after Congress reduced the penalty for not purchasing health insurance to $0 in 2017, it could no longer be considered a tax, which would make the individual mandate unconstitutional.

The challengers also argued that the individual mandate could not be separated from the rest of the ACA, which may mean other provisions of the law could be deemed unconstitutional if the mandate is overturned.

But, despite the 6-3 conservative majority, the court appeared hesitant to strike down the entire law, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh questioning the individual mandate’s centrality to the ACA.

Teladoc versus AmWell

Teladoc Health Inc., filed a lawsuit against American Well Corp., alleging its rival is infringing on its patents for several types of technology. The disputed patents cover technology developed by Dr. Yulun Wang and his colleagues while working for InTouch Technologies, a telehealth company that Teladoc acquired in July.

In the suit, Teladoc alleges that AmWell is selling and promoting telemedicine carts and products that infringe on the patents it gained after buying InTouch.

Teladoc is seeking monetary and injunctive relief and demanding a jury trial.

Photo credit: artisteer, Getty Images

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