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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. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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