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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. 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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