We previously wrote about the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s decision in Gillard v. AIG Insurance Co., where the intermediate appellate court held that only communications from a client to counsel are privileged and that the attorney-client privilege does not protect communications from counsel to client. This decision was obviously concerning for legal counsel and clients across the state because it cast into doubt the breadth of what many considered sacrosanct. The decision was even more problematic for many corporate or in-house counsel, whose interactions with their clients are intertwined with communications flowing in both directions.
However, yesterday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its ruling on the issue and squarely held that the attorney-client privilege is a two-way street after all. The 24 page opinion can be reduced to this:
We hold that, in Pennsylvania, the attorney-client privilege operates in a two-way fashion to protect confidential client-to-attorney or attorney-to-client communications made for the purpose of obtaining or providing professional legal advice.
It was important that the Supreme Court make a concise and definitive statement on this issue that lies at the very heart of the attorney-client relationship. The ruling makes clear what many thought was sacrosanct: that clients can rely on the privacy and confidentiality afforded to their interactions with legal counsel.
On February 4, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its first civil monetary penalty for HIPAA violations. The penalty was levied against Cignet Health Center of Prince George’s County, Maryland, and was substantial at $4.3 million dollars. Not only is the penalty notable because it may represent stepped up enforcement of HIPAA privacy provisions by HHS in the wake of the HITECH Act, but it also is the first penalty to implement the HITECH increased penalty amounts.
Help us support McQuaide Blasko Litigation practice group attorney Suzette Sims, who is participating in the Pink Zone Online Auction Committee for the Fifth Annual WBCA Pink Zone. The Pink Zone event will take place at Penn State at noon on Sunday, February 27, 2011, when Penn State’s Lady Lions will play a game against Northwestern. The WBCA Pink Zone is an initiative by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s (WBCA) to assist in raising breast cancer awareness.
The Online Auction Committee was responsible for developing online auctions to assist in fundraising efforts that will benefit breast cancer charities, including Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, and JC Blair Memorial Hospital. The auctions, which can be accessed using the links below, are now open and will remain live through March 2, 2011. Please support these vital charities by bidding now!
The online auctions are available at http://www.charitybuzz.com/auctions/pennstate and http://gopsusports2.cstvauctions.com/gallery.cfm. More information on the Pink Zone can be found at http://www.gopsusports.com/pinkzone.
The state Attorney General in Virginia — the state with conflicting federal court opinions on the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision of the health care law — is planning to ask that the United States Supreme Court address the Constitutional issues on an expedited basis, bypassing intermediate appellate review by the Circuit Courts of Appeal. The Commonwealth of Virginia opposed the individual mandate and filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services, and won in Commonwealth v. Sebelius. Nonetheless, the state AG apparently wants definitive review to put the matter to rest. Republican lawmakers are urging the Obama Administration to join in the request but it has so far declined.
Obtaining expedited review before the Supreme Court is a long-shot. The Court will directly accept those cases of “imperative public importance” without intermediate appellate review, but rarely does. Perhaps the most notable expedited review case was Bush v. Gore, but that case obviously had a short fuse given the Constitutional timing requirements for the presidential terms.
Unless you have been hiding under a rock — or working doubles — you have no doubt heard that U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson has ruled that the health reform law is unconstitutional. This is the second such blow to the law, the first coming from a Virginia District Court in December 2010. There are some important differences between these two rulings, however.
In a January 5, 2011 ruling, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that PAs are entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This ruling may have significant implications for the health care industry as many institutions increasingly rely on advanced practitioners, such as PAs, to alleviate demands on physicians by the growing patient population.