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COA: Debt collector not entitled to attorney fees under agreement

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A company assigned to collect on a woman’s medical debt cannot also collect attorney fees, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday. The agreement the woman signed with a medical provider that allows for the collection of attorney fees did not apply to the physician group which assigned her debt to the collections company.

Tina Gray received medical services from physicians employed by Emergency Medicine of Indiana P.C. while she was a patient at Dupont Hospital. During her hospital stay she entered into an agreement with Dupont regarding payment. An unpaid $300 balance to Emergency Medicine was assigned to DECA Financial Services for collection. DECA sought the unpaid balance, $150 in attorney fees and $94 in court costs. The small claims judge ordered Gray to pay the unpaid balance and court costs, but found the agreement she entered into with the hospital did not give Emergency Medicine, a separate entity from the hospital, the ability to recover attorney fees.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in DECA Financial Services, LLC v. Tina Gray, 02A04-1311-SC-595.

“DECA asserts that Emergency Medicine’s employees are “facility-based physicians” and that Gray and Dupont’s intent to make Emergency Medicine a third party beneficiary of the attorney’s fees provision is evidenced by the inclusion of ‘facility-based physicians’ in Paragraph 1. Specifically, DECA contends that, because ‘Gray agrees to authorize payment “directly to ... any facility-based physicians”’ in Paragraph 1, Emergency Medicine is inherently authorized to recover attorney’s fees for non-payment under Paragraph 2,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

“DECA’s contention overlooks the context of Paragraph 1, which states: ‘I hereby assign and authorize payment directly to the Facility, and to any facility-based physician, all insurance benefits ... .’ Thus, even if we were to conclude that Emergency Medicine is a third party beneficiary under Paragraph 1, its third party benefits would be limited to the provisions of that paragraph. Nothing in the language of Paragraph 1 indicates an intent to make Emergency Medicine a third party beneficiary under Paragraph 2. Therefore, we conclude that the agreement does not entitle Emergency Medicine to attorney’s fees.”



 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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