COA partly revives injured woman’s claims against chiropractic clinic

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded entry of summary judgment in favor of an Indianapolis chiropractic clinic in a case brought by a woman injured in a car accident.

After walking away from a car crash with neck pain and headaches, Erika Butler sought treatment at Indianapolis chiropractic clinic Symmergy for her injuries, including back pain.

An employee of Symmergy told Butler that it “could not submit the bills to [Butler’s health insurer] as this involved a motor vehicle accident,” but did explain to Butler that Symmergy would seek to receive payment through her automobile insurance medical payment coverage.

Butler signed a “Doctor’s Lien” document, providing that she “fully understand that I am directly and fully responsible to said doctor for all medical bills submitted by him for services rendered to me and that agreement is made [illegible.]” But neither the Doctor’s Lien nor a provided brochure referenced an office policy whereby Symmergy refused to submit claims to health insurers for treatment provided to bodily injury patients.

By the time she began treatment, Butler’s automobile insurance medical payment coverage was exhausted and her automobile insurance therefore did not pay any of the medical bills from Symmergy. Then by January 2016, Symmergy released Butler from treatment and placed her on a “maintenance” program, finally billing Butler’s health insurer. But Symmergy did not provide Butler with copies of her medical records or health insurance claim forms until well after she completed her treatment.

Symmergy later alleged in Marion Superior Court that Butler owed $9,295.00 in unpaid medical bills, prompting Butler to assert that her execution of the Doctor’s Lien was obtained by fraud. Butler also filed a series of counterclaims alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, unfair trade practices, and breach of contract.

The trial court ultimately granted Symmergy’s combined motion for summary judgment and did not rule on the motion to correct error from Butler and her attorneys from the personal injury action, which was therefore deemed denied.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in part the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for Symmergy on Butler’s breach of fiduciary duty claim, but reversed the order granting summary judgment for Symmergy on its claim against Butler and Butler’s counterclaims for fraud, unfair trade practice, and breach of contract.

The appellate court first found that genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether Symmergy fraudulently concealed its internal office policy of not billing the health insurance carriers of bodily injury patients.

Consequently, Symmergy is not entitled to summary judgment on its claim against Butler for non-payment of debt or on Butler’s counterclaim against Symmergy for fraud because genuine issues of material fact remain regarding whether Symmergy committed constructive fraud or fraudulently induced Butler to contract with Symmergy,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the appellate court.

It also found that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for Symmergy on Butler’s unfair trade practice claim and that a genuine issue of material fact remains regarding the terms of the contract between Butler and Symmergy and whether Symmergy breached those terms.

However, as a matter of law, the appellate court held a fiduciary relationship did not exist between Butler and Symmergy at the time Butler contracted with Symmergy for treatment.

Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for Symmergy on Butler’s breach of fiduciary duty claim, but we reverse the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for Symmergy on its claim against Butler and Butler’s counterclaims for fraud, unfair trade practice, and breach of contract. We remand the matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” it concluded in the case of Erika Butler v. Symmergy Clinic , 20A-CC-00904.

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