Hoover v. The Agency for Health Care Administration

Case Summary for my Law & Bioethics graduate school course

by Don Stacy

 

Dr. Katherine Anne HOOVER, Appellant, v. THE AGENCY FOR HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATION, Appellee, Fla. Dist. Ct. App., 676 So. 2d 1380 (1996).

 

COURT

District Court of Appeal of Florida

 

PARTIES

Plaintiff/Appellant: Katherine Anne Hoover, M.D.

Defendant/Appellee: The Agency for Health Care Administration

 

FACTS

An administrative complaint was filed by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration against Dr. Hoover claiming she was excessively prescribing controlled substances. Dr. Hoover denied the charge and requested a hearing.  The Agency for Health Care Administration presented two physicians as experts at the hearing.  The experts’ testimony was solely based on pharmacy records, for they had not examined any relevant patient or patient record.  Dr. Hoover testified, in detail, about her diagnoses and courses of treatment.  The hearing officer’s recommendation was to dismiss the complaint.  However, the Agency for Health Care Administration filed exceptions to the recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law as to five of the seven relevant patients. The Florida Board of Medicine accepted all the Agency’s exceptions, amended the findings of fact in accordance with the Agency’s suggestions, found Dr. Hoover in violation of several Florida Statutes, and imposed the penalties recommended by the Agency (a reprimand, a $4,000 administrative fine, CME on prescribing abusable drugs, and 2 years probation). Dr. Hoover then appealed to the Florida District Court of Appeal.

 

PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT’S CONTENTIONS

Dr. Hoover, a board-certified physician in internal medicine, appealed a final order of the Florida Board of Medicine penalizing her and restricting her license to practice medicine in the State of Florida because she disputed the relevant allegation of “inappropriately and excessively” prescribing controlled substances to seven of her patients with intractable pain.

 

DEFENDANT/APPELLEE’S CONTENTIONS

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration denied any wrongdoing.

 

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

See FACTS section.

 

ISSUES

  • Must an administrative review board give substantial weight to the findings of an administrative officer before it supersedes those findings and revokes a license to practice medicine?
  • What type of evidence must an administrative officer cite as evidence of her findings?
  • Can an administrative review board supplant an administrative officer’s valid findings of fact with its own opinion?

 

HOLDINGS

  • An administrative review board must give substantial weight to the findings of an administrative officer before it supersedes those findings and revokes a license to practice medicine.
  • An administrative officer must cite competent substantial evidence as the basis of her findings so that there are no grounds to set aside her findings.
  • An administrative review board cannot supplant an administrative officer’s valid findings of fact with its own opinion.

 

RULES

See HOLDINGS section.

 

RESULT

The District Court of Appeal of Florida reversed the Florida Board of Medicine’s final order penalizing Dr. Hoover and restricting her license to practice medicine in the State of Florida.

 

IMPLICATIONS/ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS

This case established the precedent that a State medical administrative review board cannot replace an administrative officer’s valid findings of fact (based on competent substantial evidence) with its own arbitrary opinion (based on inadequate evidence).