Epstein Becker Green recently achieved a significant appellate victory for Horizon Healthcare Services Inc. (“Horizon”) and Magellan Health Services Inc. (“Magellan”). On June 11, 2013, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, reversed a decision by the Chancery Division, Essex County, and dismissed a lawsuit brought by the New Jersey Psychological Association (“NJPA”) and two patients. The complaint alleged that Horizon and Magellan had breached their agreement under the State Health Benefit Program (“SHBP”), which insures New Jersey workers, and violated the New Jersey Practicing Psychology Licensing Act (“PPLA”) by requiring psychologists to disclose confidential patient treatment information before paying for the patients’ mental health services.
The NJPA previously sued Horizon and Magellan in the Chancery Division, Mercer County, for violating the SHBP agreement and the PPLA. In January 2011, the Mercer judge dismissed the suit, claiming that the NJPA lacked standing to bring its claims against Horizon and Magellan because it couldn’t prove that the association had suffered any harm. The NJPA filed an appeal, but then withdrew it. In July 2011, the NJPA and two patients, who were covered under SHBP plans and claimed that they were denied treatment by Horizon and Magellan because they refused to disclose confidential information, filed a second lawsuit, but, this time, in the Chancery Division, Essex County. The Essex judge declined to dismiss the suit, and Horizon and Magellan appealed.
In its decision, the Appellate Division pointed out that the plaintiffs in the Essex County suit “raise no new issues and present no new material facts that should change the decision made by the Mercer judge.” Accordingly, the Appellate Division dismissed the suit, adding that the Essex judge should not have not considered the case and that the two patient-plaintiffs were required to exhaust their administrative remedies under the SHBP before seeking judicial action.