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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. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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