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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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