ILNews

Hospital doesn't owe attorney any contingency fees

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A Kokomo attorney is not entitled to collect his contingency fees from a hospital in his representation of a patient caught in an insurance dispute, the Indiana Court of Appeals has held.

Patient T.W. was admitted to St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove for emergency treatment of kidney cancer. He had insurance with Kaiser Permanente of Southern California, but his insurer refused to pay the $26,524.27 bill because T.W. didn’t receive the treatment in California.

T.W. hired Alan D. Wilson to go after Kaiser for not paying the bill and he agreed to pay Wilson on a contingency fee basis. Kaiser later paid the entire amount directly to St. Francis. Wilson then tried to recover one-third of the amount from St. Francis by asserting an attorney’s lien. St. Francis refused to pay, and Wilson filed his complaint seeking the money.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the entry of summary judgment in favor of St. Francis in Alan D. Wilson v. Sisters of St. Francis Health Services, No. 34A02-1101-CC-57. Wilson also argued he was entitled to the money because St. Francis had asserted a hospital lien, which is subordinate to an attorney fee lien.

Wilson does not have a valid equitable attorney fee lien on the payment made by Kaiser to St. Francis, the judges ruled. Wilson failed to cite any authority that allows a charging lien under these circumstances – that insurance payments made to a third party under the client’s health insurance policy are subject to a charging lien.

The appellate court also rejected Wilson’s claim that he’s entitled to the money based on an unjust enrichment theory. The judges agreed that the hospital, which is a “stranger” to the contingency fee agreement, shouldn’t be forced to carry the burden of T.W.’s contractual obligations. Wilson didn’t prove that a measurable benefit was conferred on St. Francis that it’s retention of the insurance payment without payment of attorney fees would be unjust.

The judges also found that because St. Francis did not have a valid hospital lien and Wilson didn’t have a valid attorney lien, the statutory requirement that a hospital lien be “subject and subordinate to any attorney’s lien” wasn’t applicable.
 

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  • No good deed goes unpunished
    Another blow to lawyers. So, this lawyer agrees to a contingency fee to go after $27,000. He fights the insurance company, and wins for the intended third party beneficiary (the hospital). Then, he has to actually bring suit against the hospital for approximately $9,000, which, in turn, goes up on appeal. Wow. That's a lot of work for $9,000. My question is how much work was expended in the first place, trying to get the insurance company to cough up the money.

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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