Justia Vermont Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
In re Blue Cross and Blue Shield 2022 Individual & Small Group Market Filing
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont (Blue Cross) appealed the Green Mountain Care Board’s (GMCB) decision modifying its proposed health-insurance rates for 2022. The GMCB approved Blue Cross’s proposed rates with several exceptions, one of which was relevant here: its contribution to reserves (CTR). Blue Cross had sought a base CTR rate of 1.5%, but the GMCB ordered Blue Cross to lower it to 1.0%, thereby diminishing overall insurance rates by 0.5% and reducing health-insurance premiums. The GMCB found that a 1.5% base CTR was “excessive” because Blue Cross was expected to be above its target Risk Based Capital (RBC) range by the end of 2021, “individuals and small businesses are still struggling financially after a year-long economic slowdown,” and a 1.0% CTR would allow its “reserves to sit comfortably within the company’s RBC target range.” Blue Cross moved for reconsideration, arguing that the term “excessive” was strictly actuarial in nature, and that the GMCB misconstrued it by weighing non-actuarial evidence— testimony concerning affordability—as part of its examination of whether the proposed rate was excessive. On appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court, Blue Cross raised essentially the same issue. Because none of the actuarial experts who testified concluded that Blue Cross’s proposed CTR was excessive, Blue Cross argued, the GMCB could not properly conclude that it was. Blue Cross conceded that health-insurance rates for 2022 could not now be changed, but it urged the Supreme Court to rule on the merits, arguing that this matter was not moot because the CTR rate for this year will disadvantage Blue Cross in future rate-review proceedings. The Supreme Court determined Blue Cross did not demonstrate that this kind of case was capable of repetition yet evading review or subjected it to continuing negative collateral consequences. Therefore, Blue Cross failed to meet the exceptional thresholds necessary for the Court to reach the merits in a moot case. View "In re Blue Cross and Blue Shield 2022 Individual & Small Group Market Filing" on Justia Law
OCS/Dionne v. Anthony
Mother challenged the denial of her request that a child-support order be made retroactive and that she be awarded the arrearage. A magistrate judge found that mother assigned her right to any past-due support to the Office of Child Support (OCS) as a condition of receiving benefits on behalf of her child and that the State waived any arrearages. The family division affirmed. Mother argued on appeal that she did not assign OCS her right to past-due support. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the family division. View "OCS/Dionne v. Anthony" on Justia Law
Worrall v. Department of Labor (Snowfire Ltd., Employer)
Claimant Joseph Worrall challenged an Employment Security Board decision finding him ineligible for unemployment compensation and liable to the Vermont Department of Labor for an overpayment. In November 2020, a claims adjudicator found that claimant was disqualified from receiving benefits as of the week ending May 2, 2020, because he left his employment voluntarily without good cause attributable to his employer. The claims adjudicator determined that claimant was obligated to repay $15,028 in overpaid benefits. Claimant argues on appeal that the Board erred in finding him disqualified for benefits. According to claimant, the Board accepted that he undertook efforts to relocate out of state before receiving a return-to-work notice. Based on this premise, claimant asserts that he was “unavailable for work” at the time his employer offered him the opportunity to return and that he was therefore entitled to benefits. Finding no error in the Board's decision, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Worrall v. Department of Labor (Snowfire Ltd., Employer)" on Justia Law
In re Katzenbach A250 Permit #7R1374-1
Applicants Christian and Clark Katzenbach appealed the Environmental Division’s decision granting but imposing certain conditions on an Act 250 permit for operating their sand- and gravel-extraction project. Applicants challenged the court’s findings and conclusions under Criterion 5 and Criterion 8 of Act 250. The Vermont Supreme Court found no clear error in the trial court's findings under both criteria, but concluded one condition imposed under Criterion 5 was unreasonable in light of the trial court’s findings. The Supreme Court therefore struck that one Criterion 5 condition and affirmed in all other respects. View "In re Katzenbach A250 Permit #7R1374-1" on Justia Law
In re Benoit Conversion Application
The Benoits sought to set aside a 2008 judgment under Vermont Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5). The Benoits owned real property in the City of St. Albans, Vermont, which they purchased from the Hayfords in 2003. The property had a main building with multiple rental units and a separate building in the rear of the property. In 1987, the Hayfords converted the rear building to an additional residential unit without first obtaining a zoning permit or site-plan approval, as required by the applicable zoning regulations. The City adopted new zoning regulations in 1998, which made the property more nonconforming in several respects. Both the denial of the certificate of occupancy and a subsequent denial of the Hayfords’ request for variances were not appealed and became final. In 2001, the zoning administrator issued a notice of violation (NOV), alleging that only four of the six residential units on the property had been approved. The Hayfords appealed to the Development Review Board and again applied for variances. The Board upheld the NOV and denied the variance requests based on the unappealed 1998 decision. The Hayfords then appealed to the environmental court, which in 2003 decision, the court upheld the variance denial and upheld the NOV with respect to the sixth residential unit in the rear building. The Hayfords, and later the Benoits, nonetheless “continued to rent out the sixth residence in the rear building despite the notice of violation.” In 2004, the City brought an enforcement action against the Benoits and the Hayfords. The Benoits and Hayfords argued that the actions were barred by the fifteen-year statute of limitations in 24 V.S.A. § 4454(a). The environmental court concluded that “although the Hayfords’ failure to obtain a permit and site-plan approval in 1987 occurred more than fifteen years before the instant enforcement action, a new and independent violation occurred in 1998 when the City adopted its new zoning regulations.” It ordered the Hayfords and the Benoits to stop using the rear building as a residential unit and imposed fines. Appealing the 2004 judgment, an order was issued in 2008, leading to the underlying issue on appeal here: the Benoits contended that decision was effectively overruled by a later case involving different parties. The Environmental Division denied their request and the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed its decision. View "In re Benoit Conversion Application" on Justia Law
In re Burns 12 Weston Street NOV
Neighbors appealed an Environmental Division order vacating a municipal notice of violation (NOV) alleging owners were using a two-unit building as an unpermitted duplex. The Environmental Division concluded that a 2006 amendment to the City of Burlington’s zoning ordinance did not automatically reclassify the status or use of the building from a duplex to a single-family home with an accessory dwelling. It also held that a 2014 interior reconfiguration by owners did not change the property’s use, and the zoning statute of limitations, 24 V.S.A. § 4454(a), barred the City’s enforcement action in any case. Finding no reversible error in this judgement, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Burns 12 Weston Street NOV" on Justia Law
de Macedo Soares v. Barnet Fire District #2 et al.
Plaintiff Theodore de Macedo Soares challenged the process by which defendant, the Prudential Committee for Barnet Fire District No. 2, obtained approval for a municipal bond. The trial court denied plaintiff’s request to invalidate the bond vote, finding that although the Prudential Committee violated the Open Meeting Law during the process, the defect was the result of oversight, inadvertence, and mistake, and it was cured by the Committee’s validation resolution. The court denied plaintiff’s remaining requests for relief as well. Plaintiff argued on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court that the trial court erred in: (1) concluding that the Open Meeting Law violations could be cured under 24 V.S.A. § 1757 or 17 V.S.A. § 2662; (2) failing to address his request for a new trial; (3) denying his attorney-fee request; and (4) dismissing his claim regarding curb-stop fees. The Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the Committee. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial court to enter final judgment in favor of defendant Vermont Municipal Bond Bank too. View "de Macedo Soares v. Barnet Fire District #2 et al." on Justia Law
Daiello v. Town of Vernon, et al.
Defendants Brenda and Dale Merritt (neighbors) challenged a superior court’s decision granting summary judgment to plaintiff Steven Daiello (landowner) and defendant Town of Vernon in a dispute over a road in Vernon, Vermont. They argued the court erred by concluding: (1) that Stebbins Road was properly established as a public road; and (2) that landowner had a common-law right of access to his property over Stebbins Road that prevented him from proving that the Town interfered with his right to access his property. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Daiello v. Town of Vernon, et al." on Justia Law
In re Appeal of M.V.
Petitioner M.V. appealed a Human Services Board order granting summary judgment to the Department for Children and Families (DCF) regarding DCF’s decision to substantiate him for child abuse. Petitioner argued the same underlying facts to which he admitted when he pleaded guilty to criminal charges of child-pornography possession could not substantiate a report of child abuse. He contended the Board applied the wrong legal standard because it did not require DCF to prove the existence of identifiable child victims or to establish a relationship between himself and each child. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment. View "In re Appeal of M.V." on Justia Law
Posted in: Government & Administrative Law
Hoffer v. OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, d/b/a OneCare Vermont
In February 2021, the Vermont State Auditor of Accounts, Douglas Hoffer, filed a complaint alleging that defendant OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, had breached various provisions in its contract with the Department for Vermont Health Access (DVHA) by denying the Auditor’s requests for OneCare’s employee payroll and benefits records for fiscal years (FY) 2019 and 2020. The civil division granted OneCare’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Auditor lacked contractual or statutory authority to demand the records, and the Auditor appealed. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Hoffer v. OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, d/b/a OneCare Vermont" on Justia Law