McGeorge School of Law

Elder Law Students Help Patient Win Her Appeal

February 3, 2010

Professor Melissa Brown, Anne Caruana, Sarah Chesteen, Cheryl Robertson, Ryan Cronin-Prather, and Dorothy Landsberg

From left, Professor Melissa Brown, Anne Caruana, Sarah Chesteen, Cheryl Robertson, Ryan Cronin-Prather, and Community Legal Services Director Dorothy Landsberg

McGeorge Elder Law Clinic students scored a significant victory recently when an administrative law judge ruled that their client was not financially responsible for a large bill incurred after being improperly discharged from a hospital.

Anne Caruana, '11, Ryan Cronin-Prather, '11, and Sarah Chesteen, '11, along with Elder Law Clinic team leader Cheryl Robertson, '10 represented an 83 year-old woman in her appeal of a proposed discharge from a long-term acute care hospital. Her Medicare HMO doctor recommended transfer to a skilled nursing facility. When our client's family appealed on her behalf, the hospital sent a bill for close to $150,000.

"Our successful appeal involved an enormous amount of work," said Professor Melissa Brown, the clinic's supervising attorney. "It included the preparation of a pre-trial brief, which raised procedural and substantive due process issues, motions for production of documents and witnesses, declarations, offers of proof, requests for the issuance of subpoenas, the analysis of complex statutes, policy and case law, the review of thousands of pages of medical records, and the preparation and presentation of both expert and lay witnesses. The federal administrative law judge adopted our theory of the case and among other findings, concluded that the notice of discharge was inadequate."

During a two-day adversary hearing back in late October 2009, the McGeorge students introduced documentary evidence and conducted direct and re-direct examinations, as well as responding to hearsay objections. Attorneys for a medical group, an HMO, and a skilled nursing facility comprised opposing counsel.

"As the Elder Law Clinic continues to grow (from two students in the Spring 2008 semester to 10 in the Spring 2010 semester), the breadth and quality of our cases grow as well," Brown said. "Clinical work such as this is the perfect experience for our students, combining counseling, advocacy, ethics and professional growth. Not to mention, a very grateful client who is now being cared for in her own home."