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7th Circuit rejects hospital's claims for $20M more in federal aid

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Columbus Regional Hospital, which was flooded following heavy rains in southern Indiana in 2008, is not entitled to an additional $20 million in disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in addition to the $70 million it already received, the 7th Circuit concluded Wednesday.

In Columbus Regional Hospital v. Federal Emergency Management Agency, 12-2007, the federal appellate court tackled two issues: whether the District Court was the proper venue for the lawsuit and the merits of the suit.

The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Indiana, but under the Tucker Act, suits seeking more than $10,000 in monetary damages are to move before the Court of Federal Claims. The judges concluded that the District Court was the right venue because it’s the only court that can serve as a forum for all of the hospital’s legal theories, which include claims under the Stafford Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act.

The 7th Circuit rejected FEMA’s claim that everything it does is a “discretionary function” so there can never be an obligation to pay more than the agency decides is due. Switching focus to the lawsuit, the hospital contended that FEMA must cover the replacement cost of equipment and supplies destroyed by the flood, and that includes new equipment. The court found FEMA’s approach – to value property lost as cost (basis) less depreciation – to make sense in that it gives all victims the value of what they lost, and no more.

“Disaster benefits are a subsidy, and no one is entitled to a greater subsidy than the statute mandates,” Chief Judge Easterbrook wrote. “If a fast-food restaurant gets the depreciated value of a fryer or milkshake mixer, a hospital gets the depreciated value of a magnetic resonance imager.”

The second issue involves the proceeds the hospital received from insurance. FEMA concluded property damage represented roughly two-thirds of the hospital’s losses within the policy’s scope, so it attributed around $16 million of the $25 million in insurance proceeds to the property damage and deducted that amount from the federal funds. The hospital claims that no deductions should be made because it used the $25 million to cover expenses such as salaries and the cost of moving patients.

“ … as far as we can see nothing in the Stafford Act or any regulation prevents the agency from imputing all insurance proceeds to covered claims. FEMA did the Hospital a favor when it allocated a third of the proceeds to losses outside the scope of the Stafford Act, and thus deducted only $16 million rather than $25 million from the Hospital’s claim,” Easterbrook wrote.

“The Hospital tells us that it now has pursued its administrative remedies and filed a second suit under the FTCA. We expect it to be met with a defense of claim preclusion (res judicata) as well as the observation that the suit is substantively feeble, but we leave that to the court where the FTCA litigation is pending.”
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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