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Foster v. Missouri Dept. of Health and Sr. Services

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 13, 2013

Essie G. FOSTER, individually, and as majority shareholder in a closely held corporation, Y.I.W. Inc.Home Healthcare, Inc.; Ralph Foster, individually and as a major shareholder of a closely held corporation, Y.I.W. Inc.Home Healthcare, Inc.; Y.I.W. Home Healthcare, Inc., a Missouri Corporation, Plaintiffs-Appellants
v.
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SENIOR SERVICES, a Missouri State Agency; Debbie Hanson, individually and in her representative capacity as a Supervisor of the Employee Disqualification Unit of Defendant Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services; Patricia M. Watkins, individually and in her representative capacity as Investigator/Counsel for Employee Disqualification Unit of Defendant Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services; Missouri Department of Social Services Missouri Health Net Division, Formerly doing business as Division of Medical Services, a Missouri State agency, Defendants-Appellees.

Submitted: Sept. 25, 2013.

Page 760

Stephen J. Nangle, I, argued, Saint Louis, MO, for Appellant.

Page 761

Denise Garrison McElvein, AAG, argued, Saint Louis, MO, for Appellee.

Before MURPHY, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

Essie Foster, her husband, and their jointly owned company brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Debbie Hanson and Patricia Watkins, two employees of the Missouri Department of Senior and Health Services, alleging violations of their due process rights. The district court [1] granted summary judgment to Hanson and Watkins on the basis of qualified immunity, and the Fosters appeal. We affirm.

I.

Essie Foster and her husband Ralph Foster own Y.I.W. Home Healthcare Services, Inc., a company which provides home health care services to Medicaid recipients for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. While Foster was an employee of the company, the Department notified her that a patient had filed a credible complaint of financial exploitation against her and that it had begun proceedings to place her on a list it maintains of persons disqualified from working for a variety of state agencies and private home health care entities.

Foster filed an administrative appeal of the listing proceedings, which she later abandoned after entering into a settlement agreement with Hanson, the director of the unit in charge of maintaining the disqualification list, and Watkins, the unit's counsel. They agreed to stay her placement on the list as long as she took certain actions. These included making monthly payments to the complaining patient's daughter and completing the Department's training program for home health care providers. The agreement stated that Foster's failure to " abide by the terms of this agreement," would result in her " immediate" placement on the disqualification list " without further hearing or appeal."

Although Foster made payments, she made them late, to the wrong person, and in amounts that were fractionally too large. Department attorney Watkins sent Foster three letters notifying her of her failure to comply with the agreement. Foster did not respond, and Watkins sent a fourth letter requiring Foster to comply before a given deadline or be placed on the disqualification list. Foster wrote to Hanson and Watkins protesting that she had " substantially performed" the agreement and asking them to reopen her appeal of the listing proceedings. Hanson and Watkins did not respond to her letter, but instead instructed a Department employee to call the Y.I.W. Home Healthcare office and notify Foster that she was being placed on the list. The same employee told a person working for Y.I.W. Home Healthcare that Foster was being placed on the list and then, after being transferred to Foster, told Foster directly that the Department would contact her. The parties dispute whether anyone in the Department attempted to contact Foster again. Hanson did place Foster's name on the list, and she later testified that the unit's practice at the time was to notify individuals orally of their placement and to ask their employers to confirm in writing that the disqualified employees had been terminated.

Page 762

At the time of Foster's placement on the disqualification list, Y.I.W. Home Healthcare was applying to renew its service provider agreement with the Department. Missouri law prohibits the Department from granting provider contracts to companies employing individuals on the disqualification list. Hanson and Watkins notified HealthNet, the unit in charge of reviewing provider applications, when Foster's name was listed. Although Foster had retired from her employee position at Y.I.W. Home Healthcare before her listing, she remained one of its owners. Department and HealthNet agents were aware of her retirement, but they denied the company's renewal application because Foster continued to be named as a company director.

In late 2010, the Fosters and Y.I.W. Home Healthcare brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Department, HealthNet, and Hanson and Watkins in their official and individual capacities. They alleged the Department failed to provide Essie Foster with actual notice of her placement on the disqualification list and thus deprived the Fosters and their company of due process. They also alleged state claims of tortious interference with contract expectancy, ...


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