196 F.Supp.3d 1010 (E.D.Mo. 2016), 4:13-cv-01577-JCH, Wieland v. United States Department of Health and Human Services

Docket Nº:4:13-cv-01577-JCH
Citation:196 F.Supp.3d 1010
Opinion Judge:Jean C. Hamilton, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Party Name:PAUL JOSEPH WIELAND, et al., Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, et al., Defendants
Attorney:No. 4:13-cv-01577-JCH For Paul Joseph Wieland, a Missouri resident, Teresa Jane Wieland, a Missouri resident, Plaintiffs: Kevin E. White, Peter C. Breen, Thomas L. Brejcha, LEAD ATTORNEYS, THOMAS MORE SOCIETY, Chicago, IL; Timothy Belz, OTTSEN AND LEGGAT, L.C., St. Louis, MO. For United States De...
Case Date:July 21, 2016
Court:United States District Courts, 8th Circuit, Eastern District of Missouri
 
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196 F.Supp.3d 1010 (E.D.Mo. 2016)

PAUL JOSEPH WIELAND, et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, et al., Defendants

No. 4:13-cv-01577-JCH

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 21, 2016

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Paul Joseph Wieland, a Missouri resident, Teresa Jane Wieland, a Missouri resident, Plaintiffs: Kevin E. White, Peter C. Breen, Thomas L. Brejcha, LEAD ATTORNEYS, THOMAS MORE SOCIETY, Chicago, IL; Timothy Belz, OTTSEN AND LEGGAT, L.C., St. Louis, MO.

For United States Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, in her official capacity as the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, United States Department of Treasury, Jacob J. Lew, in his official capacity as the Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, United States Department of Labor, Seth D. Harris, in his official capacity as Acting Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, Defendants: Michelle R Bennett, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE - CIVIL DIVISION, Federal Program Branch, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Jean C. Hamilton, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on the Parties' cross Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 75, 78.) The Motions have been fully briefed and are ready for disposition.

BACKGROUND

On August 14, 2013, Plaintiffs Paul and Teresa Wieland filed this action against Defendants challenging the so-called " contraceptive mandate" (hereinafter, the " Mandate" ) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (" ACA" ), Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119. The Mandate requires that group health plans and health insurance issuers provide minimum essential coverage to women, which includes coverage for all contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures approved by the Food and Drug Administration, without cost-sharing requirements. See 26 U.S.C. § 4980H(a); 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13. The statutory background is set forth in more detail in the Court's January 8, 2016 Order. (ECF No. 66.)

As life-long Roman Catholics, Plaintiffs oppose the use, funding, and provision of contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients (collectively and hereinafter, " contraceptives" ). Plaintiffs believe that paying for or participating in a healthcare plan that includes coverage for contraceptives violates their sincerely-held religious beliefs, as does providing such coverage to

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their three dependent daughters. Mr. Wieland serves as a State Representative in the Missouri General Assembly. As an employment benefit, he receives health insurance coverage through Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (" MCHCP" ), an entity of the State. Plaintiffs pay a portion of the insurance premiums in order to maintain coverage for themselves and their daughters, and the State of Missouri contributes the remaining portion. Prior to August 1, 2013, and pursuant to state law, MCHCP offered Mr. Wieland an opportunity to opt out of coverage for contraceptives. Following the decision in Missouri Insurance Coalition v. Huff, 947 F.Supp.2d 1014, 1020 (E.D. Mo. 2013) (finding certain portions of Mo. Rev. Stat. § 376.1199, which required healthcare insurers to offer plans excluding coverage for contraceptives if such coverage was contrary to enrollee's religious beliefs, preempted by ACA), MCHCP discontinued the opt-out offer, and Plaintiffs were placed in a healthcare plan that includes coverage for contraceptives.

In their Complaint Plaintiffs assert several claims under various constitutional and statutory provisions, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (" RFRA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq. They assert that the Mandate forces them to either violate their religious opposition to contraceptives by maintaining health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage, or forgo health insurance altogether " under the pain of penalties." Plaintiffs have supported the allegations in their Complaint with declarations. They seek a Court order enjoining the government from enforcing the Mandate against them insofar as is forces them to obtain health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage, and from requiring that their health insurance issuer provide them with a healthcare plan that includes contraceptive coverage.

On October 16, 2013, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' Complaint for lack of standing. Upon remand from the Eighth Circuit, Defendants moved for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss as to Plaintiffs' RFRA claim, but granted the motion as to all other claims set forth in the Complaint. The Parties now move for summary judgment.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment shall be granted " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." " Where Parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, each summary judgment motion must be evaluated independently to determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists and whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Jaudes v. Progressive Preferred Ins. Co., 11 F.Supp.3d 943, 947 (E.D. Mo. 2014). The substantive law determines which facts are material, and " [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

The moving party bears the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See id. at 256. When a summary judgment motion is properly supported by evidence, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party who must set forth affirmative evidence showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See id. at 256-57. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court is required to view the facts in the

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light most favorable to the non-moving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the record. See Hott v. Hennepin Cnty., Minn., 260 F.3d 901, 904-05 (8th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).

DISCUSSION

The Parties dispute (1) whether Plaintiffs have presented sufficient evidence demonstrating redressability in order to establish standing at the summary judgment stage, and (2) whether Plaintiffs' RFRA claim succeeds on the merits. The Court will address these issues in turn.

A. Standing

To establish standing, a plaintiff must show (1) that he has suffered an " injury in fact" that is " concrete and particularized" and " actual or imminent" ; (2) that there is " a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of" ; and (3) that it is " likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision." Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992) (quotations and citations omitted). When " a plaintiff's asserted injury arises from the government's allegedly unlawful regulation (or lack of regulation) of someone else," redressability ordinarily " hinge[s] on the response of the regulated (or regulable) third party to the government action," and " it becomes the burden of the plaintiff to adduce facts showing that those choices have been or will be made in such a manner as to...permit redressability of injury." Id. at 562. Plaintiffs must establish redressability " with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation." Id. at 562.

Defendants assert that Plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that their alleged injury is redressable, because they have not produced any evidence showing that the requested injunction would result in their ability to obtain a healthcare plan from MCHCP or any other provider that accords with their religious beliefs. They argue that, on the contrary, the undisputed evidence shows that it is merely speculative as to whether MCHCP would provide such coverage. Specifically, Defendants reference a February 2016 correspondence from MCHCP, in which MCHCP's General Counsel responded to a joint inquiry from the Parties regarding whether MCHCP would provide Plaintiffs with a contraceptive-free healthcare plan if the Court were to enter the requested injunction. MCHCP explained that " [t]he laws which regulate group health plans are many and the [Board of Trustees], with the advice from its counsel, would need to study the implications of the laws, together with the injunction, in order to make an informed decision on the question of creating and promulgating rules for the administration of non-contraceptive plans that only one subscriber and his enrolled dependents may access." (ECF No. 75.2 at 12.) MCHCP concluded that " [a]t this time, it is impossible to predict the [Board of Trustee's] response to the injunction..." Id.

Plaintiffs respond that they are not required to provide a written commitment from MCHCP that it will in fact provide them with a contraceptive-free plan, in part because of MCHCP's statutory obligation to provide one. Plaintiffs point to Section 191.724 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, which was not addressed in Huff, and which provides the following: No governmental entity,...or entity acting in a governmental capacity shall discriminate against or penalize an employee,...employer, health plan provider, health plan sponsor,...or any other person or entity because of such employee's,...employer's, health plan provider's,

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