Modernizing Healthcare Legislation in the Face of the Opioid Crisis

Laura Gerdes Long

By Laura Gerdes Long



In 2016, opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths in America. It was estimated that 11.5 million people misused opioid prescriptions and 2.1 million people suffered from an opioid use disorder that same year.[1] From July 2016 to September 2017, the Center for Disease and Prevention found that opioid overdoses increased 30% in 45 states; however, the Midwest region alone saw a 70% increase.[2] On October 26, 2017, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national Public Health Emergency under federal law.

While the federal government has responded by allotting six billion dollars to assist in the treatment and prevention of opioid overdoses, hospitals and medical providers still face baopioid crisisrriers when it comes to the disclosure of medical information related to these overdoses due to conflicts between HIPAA and other federal law. Congress is working to resolve this conflict.

In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a new HIPAA Guidance on when and how healthcare providers may share a patient’s health information with his or her family members, friends, and legal representative if the patient is in crisis. Current HIPAA regulations permit (but do not require) healthcare professionals to disclose health information without a patient’s consent if the provider determines that doing so is in the best interest of an incapacitated or unconscious patient and the information shared is directly related to the family or friend’s involvement in the patient’s healthcare or payment of care. This allows a provider to talk to the parents of someone incapacitated by an opioid overdose about the overdose, but generally does not allow disclosure of medical information unrelated to the overdose without the patient’s permission. Continue reading »

Employers With Arbitration Clauses Win – Part Two: Factors Employers Should Consider When Determining Whether to Incorporate an Employee Arbitration Program

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



One of the many employment-related decisions a company must make is whether it wishes to require employees to give up their rights to file an employment action in court, and instead to require employees to use arbitration.

In Part One, we discussed how employers can require employees to arbitrate claims on an individual basis. This much-anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis allows employers to use arbitration agreements as a tool to avoid costly class action claims with more certainty that they will be enforced by the courts.

The decision in Epic also added an additional favorable factor to the arbitration choice column. The Court ruled that employers can require employees to arbitrate claims on an individual basis and thus avoid class actions. Epic Systems (which was decided along with two sister cases) involved employees seeking class action litigation, despite having employment contracts with provisions that required individualized arbitration proceedings.

Although Missouri is an employment at will state, employees can sue employers under various state and federal statutes in state or federal court. Some of those statues, for example, the Fair Labor Standards Act, allow class actions. Litigation is very costly and there could always be a runaway jury. Arbitration, on the other hand, is designed to avoid complex and time-consuming litigation and to provide an alternate source of justice. An arbitration could take six months to resolve but the decision will be final and binding and unappealable, while a court proceeding through a jury trial could take 21-41 months and the decision is always appealable. Continue reading »

Employers With Arbitration Clauses Win – Part One: The U.S. Supreme Court Embraces Arbitration Agreements with Class Action Waivers

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of class action waivers in employee arbitration agreements by issuing a 5-4 decision in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis on March 21, 2018.

In short, employers can require employees to arbitrate claims on an individual basis. This much-anticipated decision allows employers to use arbitration agreements as a tool to avoid costly class action claims with more certainty that they will be enforced by the courts.

Brief History of Arbitration Clauses and Class Action Waivers in the Employment Context

The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) was enacted in 1925 in response to hostility toward arbitration agreements. The FAA provides that a written agreement to submit a controversy arising out of the agreement to arbitration is to be enforced unless “grounds exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” Since the enactment of the FAA, the Supreme Court has consistently recognized the establishment of a federal policy supporting arbitration agreements.

However, in 2012, the National Labor Relations (“NLRB”) found in D.R. Horton, Inc., that mandatory arbitration agreements with class action waivers were violative of employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), which guarantees employees the right to self-organize, bargain collectively, and “engage in activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Following the NLRB’s decision, a split among the circuits developed. While the Second, Fifth and Eighth Circuits rejected the NLRB’s reasoning in D.R. Horton, the Seventh and Ninth Circuits sided with the NLRB and refused to enforce employee arbitration agreements with class action waivers.

Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis

On May 21, 2018, the Supreme Court resolved the circuit split and upheld the use of class action waivers in arbitration agreements in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis.  Epic Systems, which was decided along with two sister cases, involved employees seeking class action litigation despite having employment contracts with provisions that required individualized arbitration proceedings. The following are the three key arguments by employees and the Court’s decisions: Continue reading »

Masterpiece Cakeshop: Maintaining the Status Quo

Laura Gerdes Long

By Laura Gerdes Long



authored by Laura Gerdes Long with the assistance of Jessica Gottsacker, law clerk

In agreeing to review Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court faced questions involving both constitutional protections for LGBTQ rights and the free exercise of religious beliefs. In the end, the Court followed the facts of this particular case, making a decision that was narrower than anticipated while still upholding both rights.

In 2012, a same-sex couple visited Masterpiece Cakeshop, a custom bakery in Colorado, to order a wedding cake. The shop’s owner, Jack Phillips, refused because of his religious opposition to same-sex marriages, saying that he would make any other kind of cake, such as a birthday cake. At the time, Colorado did not recognize same-sex marriages since the Court had not yet handed down Obergefell v. Hodges. The couple filed suit with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of the Colorado Anti–Discrimination Act (CADA). CADA makes it unlawful to discriminate in public accommodations or “place[s] of business engaged in any sales to the public and any place offering services … to the public.” (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24–34–601(1) (2017)).The Commission determined there was probable cause that discrimination had occurred. Unwilling to ignore his religious beliefs, Phillips stopped selling wedding cakes altogether and his profits fell forty percent. Eventually, Phillips brought his lawsuit to the Supreme Court.

The Court faced two issues: Continue reading »

Missouri On Track to Reform Interpleader Law: House Bill 1531 Unanimously Approved by the Senate

Laura Gerdes Long

By Laura Gerdes Long



co-authored by Laura Gerdes Long and Katherine M. Flett

As he was leaving office, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed at least 77 bills into law, including House Bill 1531, which may protect insurance carriers subjected to purported bad faith claims.

“Interpleader” is a civil procedure vehicle used to force claimants to litigate a dispute involving two or more claims to a limited amount of money held by a third party, such as an insurance carrier.  A common example is when multiple people are injured in a car accident and the injuries exceed the amount covered by the tortfeasor’s policy limits.  What should the insurance carrier do?

Under the prior law, codified at Section 507.060 RSMo, the tortfeasor’s insurer could interplead the policy limits, but the insurer would remain subject to a purported bad faith claim.  This would put insurers in an impossible situation, choosing between paying claims on a first-come, first-serve basis to avoid time-based bad faith claims, paying the limits on the most seriously injured claim, or gathering all of the claimants’ documentation supporting their injuries or damages in an attempt to globally resolve all claims within the policy limits, and reducing the insured’s exposure to excess claims.

Continue reading »

An Oral Agreement Is Not Worth the Paper It’s Printed On

A. Thomas DeWoskin

By A. Thomas DeWoskin



On June 4, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an individual’s false oral statement about his assets would not support a finding of fraud under the relevant provision of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. That provision required the false statement to be in writing if it were to serve as the basis of a fraud claim. (Lamar Archer & Cofrin LLP v. R. Scott Appling, Case Number 16-1215, 584 U.S. ___ (2018), issued on June 4, 2018.)

In this case, Mr. Appling hired a law firm to represent him in some litigation. When he had fallen behind on his legal bill to the extent of some $60,000, the firm threatened to withdraw from the case. He told the firm that he was expecting a tax refund of about $100,000 which would cover that bill and all future fees. Relying on Mr. Appling’s assertion, the law firm continued with the representation.

As you probably have concluded by know, there was no $100,000 refund. It was only $60,000, and Mr. Appling invested it in his business rather than paying his attorneys. Worse, when his attorneys subsequently asked about the refund, Mr. Appling lied and told him that he hadn’t received the refund yet. Continue reading »

Update on the EEOC and the Prohibition of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

Laura Gerdes Long

By Laura Gerdes Long



In an article in the inaugural issue of DMPC’s Employment News You Can Use, EEOC: Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity is Prohibited, we discussed the state of the current contradictory precedent out of the Missouri Courts of Appeals.

As of the date of this post, the uncertainty of whether employment decisions based on sexual orientation are prohibited remains; however, limited movement was made by the Western District’s Court of Appeals when it reversed a summary judgment ruling in Lampley v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights.

Harold Lampley alleged his employer, the State of Missouri, Department of Social Services Child Support Enforcement Division, discriminated against him based on sex because his behavior and appearance contradicted the stereotypes of males held by his employer and managers. Lampley argued that because he did not conform to the stereotype of males, his employer treated him differently from other employees who conformed with gender stereotypes. Lampley postured his sex discrimination case as supported by evidence of sex stereotyping. It is important to note that Lampley brought his lawsuit against his employer for sex discrimination, not discrimination based on sexual orientation. Continue reading »

Salaries Speak Louder than Words: The Ninth Circuit Holds that Prior Salary Cannot Justify Wage Disparities

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



In April 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Rizo v. Yovino that an employee’s pay history is not a legal justification for a wage disparity under the Equal Pay Act.

The Equal Pay Act (the “Act”) stands for a principle as simple as its title: men and women should receive equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex.  While sex-based wage discrimination has been prohibited under the Act for over fifty years, the pay gap between men and women continues to be a disconcerting reality in our society.

The Act provides that an employer may justify wage disparities if it is able to prove that it relied not on sex, but on one of the following exceptions: (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on “any factor other than sex.” It is the last “catch-all” exception that was the subject of Rizo v. Yovino. Continue reading »

The EEOC Catches the Flu: A Cautionary Tale for Employers With Mandatory Flu Vaccination Programs

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



After enduring one of the worst flu seasons in nearly a decade, there is no question why more employers are instituting mandatory flu vaccination programs. In fact, mandatory flu vaccination programs are increasingly popular for healthcare employees.

No current laws in Missouri or Illinois mandate all health care employees to be vaccinated against the flu. That being said, nursing home employers in Missouri are required to either offer the flu shot to all employees and volunteers who have direct contact with residents, or provide the employees and volunteers with information about how they can obtain the flu shot independently. Similarly, health care employers in Illinois are required to provide all employees with education on influenza, as well as the opportunity to receive the vaccine. Some states, such as California and Maryland, require hospitals to publish their employee vaccination rates to the public.

When instituting a mandatory flu vaccination program, however, an employer should be aware of the possible ramifications of denying or terminating employment for refusal to comply with a mandatory flu vaccination program on the basis of religious beliefs.  Continue reading »

Should I Employ an Attorney to Assist My Real Estate Business?

David A. Zobel

By David A. Zobel



Part 12 of a 12-part series by David A. Zobel on Legal Considerations for Your Missouri Leasing Business: What You Should Consider Now, Later, and Throughout the Process

Honestly, it just depends.

For many business owners, employing an attorney may seem like a costly and unnecessary burden. After all, draft formation documents and leases, as well as real estate tips, are available on the internet. No statutory requirement exists in Missouri to employ an attorney to form and operate your business (though, as we discussed in Litigation Considerations, you will likely need to hire an attorney to represent your company in court).

For others, engaging counsel throughout the formation and operation of their company is a critical tool to ensuring the success of their business venture. No attorney can predict, prevent, and avoid all troubles which might affect your business. However, an attorney in the real estate industry (like other industry professionals) may be more likely to identify and help you avoid pitfalls that he or she has seen in past experiences, more knowledgeable as to what tax or management strategy may be best as your company grows, and more apprised of ever changing statutes, regulations and trends. For business owners who see value in those matters, it may make more sense to consult with counsel. Continue reading »