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Judges rule against hospital in fee suit

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Citing caselaw that goes back 120 years, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a Marion Superior judge’s dismissal of a complaint against a central Indiana hospital pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6). The appellate court held that the plaintiffs’ complaint, which challenged the reasonableness of the fees the hospital charged the uninsured patients, states a claim for breach of contract.

Abby Allen and Walter Moore filed a lawsuit against Clarian Health Partners claiming Clarian breached its contract with them and other uninsured recipients by charging them unreasonable fees after receiving medical treatment at a Clarian medical center in Carmel. Before they were treated, both signed the standard form of contract agreeing to pay their accounts, but those contracts didn’t specify a price or fee schedule for the services to be provided. Neither Allen nor Moore had health insurance. They were charged based on Clarian’s “chargemaster” rates, and Allen’s bill was later submitted to a collection agency.

The plaintiffs aren’t asking for charges to be waived; they are asking  the judge to declare the chargemaster rates billed to uninsured patients to be unreasonable and unenforceable. The trial court granted Clarian’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and dismissed the complaint with prejudice.

Addressing several issues, including whether the contract was breached and if the contracts unambiguously required payment, the COA ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding because no price was specified in the contracts, Allen and Moore only agreed to pay a reasonable charge for Clarian’s services. The judges cited several cases dating back to 1888 to support their holding, including the recent Indiana Supreme Court decision Stanley v. Walker, 906 N.E.2d 852, 856-57 (Ind. 2009). They declined to consider foreign rulings that Clarian cited which found hospitals aren’t held to the same reasonableness standard in the interpretation of their contracts for medical services.

“Here, the contracts provided by Clarian make no direct or indirect reference to the chargemaster or any other fee schedule, and the price for services to be rendered is, therefore, a missing and essential term,” wrote Judge Edward Najam in Abby Allen and Walter Moore v. Clarian Health Partners, Inc., No. 49A02-1011-CT-1174. “Hence, it is well settled under Indiana law that a reasonable fee is implied. Consistent with that law, Allen and Moore alleged in their complaint that Clarian charged them an unreasonable price. That allegation, if true, would constitute a breach of contract.”

The COA also declined to hold that Allen and Moore agreed to pay whatever amount Clarian charged, as that would be an unreasonable, if not absurd, interpretation of the contract, wrote the judge. The court remanded for further proceedings.
 

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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