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Eneh v. Minnesota Department of Health

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

January 16, 2018

Cosmos E. Eneh, Relator,
v.
Minnesota Department of Health, Respondent.

         Minnesota Department of Health

          Bobby Onyemeh Sea, Sea Law Office, PLC, St. Paul, Minnesota (for relator).

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Lindsay K. Strauss, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent).

          Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Stauber, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         The Minnesota Department of Health is not required to remove a finding of physical abuse from the nursing-assistant registry after the nursing assistant's disqualification period under the Minnesota Department of Human Services Background Studies Act (Background Studies Act), Minn. Stat. §§ 245C.01-.34 (2016 & Supp. 2017), has ended.

          OPINION

          STAUBER, Judge. [*]

         In this certiorari appeal, relator Cosmos E. Eneh challenges a decision by respondent Minnesota Department of Health denying his request to remove a finding of maltreatment from the state's nursing-assistant registry. He argues that respondent acted arbitrarily and capriciously and misapplied federal law. Because respondent correctly applied federal law, which does not permit a finding of abuse to be removed from a state's nursing-assistant registry, we affirm.

         FACTS

         In April 2008, relator was employed as a nursing assistant at a St. Paul nursing home certified in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. On April 28, 2008, a vulnerable adult identified relator as the person who struck him in the eye, causing bruising and swelling. Respondent completed an investigation into the alleged assault and found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that relator committed substantiated serious maltreatment of a vulnerable adult by physically abusing the nursing-home resident. Following the investigation, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) informed relator that the finding of substantiated serious maltreatment disqualified him from employment in any position that allows direct contact with persons receiving services from facilities licensed by DHS and respondent, among others.[1]

         Relator requested that respondent reconsider the maltreatment determination and disqualification. Respondent denied relator's request to set aside the disqualification, indicating that relator posed a risk of harm to vulnerable adults.

         An appeal hearing was held before a human-services judge (HSJ) under Minn. Stat. § 256.045, subd. 3(a)(10) (Supp. 2017), on the issues of whether relator physically abused a vulnerable adult, whether DHS correctly disqualified relator on that basis, and whether respondent correctly denied relator's request to set aside his disqualification. The HSJ concluded that (1) relator committed substantiated serious maltreatment of a vulnerable adult by physically abusing the nursing-home resident; (2) relator was properly disqualified from direct-contact services under Minn. Stat. §§ 245C.14, subd. 1(a)(3), .15, subd. 4(b)(2); and (3) the disqualification should not be set aside under Minn. Stat. § 245C.22, subd. 4, because relator failed to show that he did not pose a risk of harm to residents of a nursing home.

         In August 2009, the commissioner of health adopted the HSJ's findings of fact and conclusions of law and ordered that a summary of the findings be entered into relator's record in the nursing-assistant registry maintained under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1395i-3(g)(1)(C), 1396r(g)(1)(C) (2012). The following summary was entered into relator's record on the nursing-assistant registry:

On April 28, 2008, Cosmos Eneh, while working as a Nursing Assistant at Bethel Care Center in St. Paul, physically abused a vulnerable adult. Another staff member saw the [vulnerable adult] lying in bed with a swollen, bruised left eye after Mr. Eneh had provided cares. The [vulnerable adult] identified Mr. Eneh by description and name as the person who had hit him in the eye.

         On October 7, 2016, relator requested that his disqualification be set aside. Relator additionally requested "that the [n]ursing [a]ssistant registry be notified that [relator] is now permitted to work and have direct contact with persons receiving services." Respondent notified relator that he was no longer subject to the seven-year disqualification period under Minn. Stat. § 245C.15, subd. 4(b)(2). Respondent further explained that federal regulations do not permit respondent to remove the finding of maltreatment from the nursing-assistant registry because the maltreatment involved physical abuse of a vulnerable adult, as opposed to a single incident of neglect. Respondent ...


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