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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. 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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