MUST READ Case: Western Section Denies Hospital Lien to Hospital Taking Health Insurance Payments

DIANE WEST, ET AL. v. SHELBY COUNTY HEALTHCARE CORP., d/b/a REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER AT MEMPHIS.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Eugene A. Laurenzi and Lesley Cook, Memphis, Tennessee, and A. Wilson Wages, Millington, Tennessee, for the appellants, Diane West, Jammie Heags-Johnson, and Charles Garland, Individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated.

John I. Houseal, Jr. and Don L. Hearn, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Shelby County Healthcare Corp., d/b/a Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

Judge: STAFFORD

This is an appeal from the trial court’s denial of Appellants’ motion to quash Appellee’s hospital liens, which were filed pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-22-101 et seq. In each Appellant’s case, the hospital filed a lien and then recovered adjusted amounts for services rendered pursuant to the hospital’s agreements with the Appellant’s respective insurance providers. Despite having received payment, the hospital argues that it may return these adjusted payments to the insurance provider and may, instead, seek to recover its full, unadjusted bill from the Appellants’ third-party tortfeasors by foreclosing its liens. We conclude that: (1) a lien, under the HLA, presupposes the existence of a debt; (2) Appellants are third-party beneficiaries of their respective insurer’s service contract with the Appellee hospital; (3) having chosen to accept a price certain for services as “payment in full” and having, in fact, accepted payment from Appellants’ insurance providers, the underlying debt is extinguished; (4) in the absence of an underlying debt, the hospital may not maintain its lien; (5) the right to subrogate belongs to the insurance provider and a hospital lien does not create a subrogation right in the hospital. Reversed and remanded.

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