Insurance Company Accuses Family with Brain Dead Baby of Filing SLAPP Suit
You may have heard the term SLAPP suit on popular legal dramas, but most folks don’t know what they are. The term “SLAPP” refers to a (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). The sense of filing a SLAPP suit is to intimidate a defendant by burying them in costly litigation.
This is what a major Medicaid insurance company (Superior Healthcare) is accusing a Dallas-area family of doing after that company denied their adopted child a treatment that would have prevented brain death. The appellate panel that is hearing the case was not overly enthused by this tactic. Essentially, if the insurance company wins the decision, the family’s lawsuit would be quashed before it ever saw a jury. This, of course, would be ideal for the company seeing as how they are not at all sympathetic and their callous disregard for a patient resulted in their death.
“Off the Charts Stretching”
One judge claimed that the attempt to quash the lawsuit as SLAPP suit was “off the charts” stretching. But it could be a case where the insurance company is trying anything in their power to prevent the case from seeing a jury. Additionally, it buys them more time and prevents the case from entering into litigation while issues such as these are sorted out. It also prevents the family’s lawyers from accessing potentially damage documents through the discovery process. At least for now.
Additionally, Superior Health Care hopes to stifle communications between the family and the Texas Health Commission which pays Medicaid insurance companies $20 billion annually to cover health care for low-income recipients.
Texas’ anti-SLAPP laws prevent anti-SLAPP accusations from hindering the progress of cases involving bodily injury. However, attorneys for the defendant are arguing that because the minor who was injured by the denial of coverage is not connected to the suit being filed, the anti-SLAPP legislation should apply.
It does, however, appear likely that the motion will be denied and the case will be allowed to move forward. Meanwhile, lawmakers appear poised to pass new legislation that addresses this and other Medicaid and Medicare coverage disputes.
The family and doctors for the boy insisted that he have 24-hour nursing care due in large part to the fact that he had a propensity for pulling out his breathing tube. Superior denied that needed care despite the fact that doctors and nurses demonstrated the need. The boy, in turn, pulled out his breathing tube and suffered catastrophic brain damage that resulted in a vegetative state. The boy is now, essentially, dead.
A state investigation revealed that Superior should have covered the 24-hour care but instead denied the care in order to reduce their costs and increase their profits. The investigation appears to have also uncovered instances of other denied claims to similarly sick children.
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