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. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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