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Ramona Denise Wilhoite, Individually and On Behalf of Other v. Missouri Department of Social Services

February 7, 2011

RAMONA DENISE WILHOITE, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHER SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, BY AND THROUGH ITS DIRECTOR, ROBERT J. LEVY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nanette K. Laughrey United States District Judge

ORDER

Before the Court is the Motion to Certify Class [Doc. # 30] filed by Plaintiff Ramona Wilhoite as putative class representative. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion.

I. Background

Plaintiff Wilhoite brings this action against Defendant Missouri Department of Social Services ("Missouri DSS"). Wilhoite brought an underlying suit in 2009 against the Dallas County, Missouri Sheriff and other members of the Dallas County Sheriff's Department. Wilhoite alleged that those defendants had refused to provide her with necessary medical treatment for her internal bleeding during her incarceration at the Dallas County Jail. Eventually she was taken to the local hospital, where she received medical care. Plaintiff's medical expenses, which totaled $4,021.44, were paid by Medicaid.

Plaintiff Wilhoite settled that underlying suit for $20,000.00. She now alleges that the settlement did not include reimbursement for any of her medical care or treatment. Once a tentative settlement agreement was in place, Plaintiff contacted Defendant Missouri DSS to determine whether it claimed any interest in her settlement proceeds. Plaintiff received notification on January 7, 2010, that Missouri DSS claimed "a lien upon any funds to be paid as a result of any settlement or judgment obtained . . . ." [Doc. # 31, Ex. 1.] The "Lien Amount" was initially indicated as $4,411.29, and then as $4,021.44 in a January 21, 2010 letter. [Doc. # 31, Exs. 1, 2.] Due to the lien claimed by Defendant, Plaintiff's $4,021.44 has been kept in a trust account pending resolution of this litigation.

In the present suit, Plaintiff Wilhoite asserts three counts against Defendant Missouri DSS. In Count I, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of rights secured by 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(a)(1) and by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In Count II, Plaintiff seeks disgorgement of all amounts collected in violation of section 1396p(a)(1) and a permanent injunction under an unjust enrichment theory. Finally, in Count III, Plaintiff seeks damages for breach of contract for Defendant's alleged violation of section 1396p(a)(1).

Section 1396p(a)(1) of the Social Security subchapter on "Grants to States for Medical Assistance Programs" provides:

No lien may be imposed against the property of any individual prior to his death on account of medical assistance paid or to be paid on his behalf under the State plan, except--

(A) pursuant to the judgment of a court on account of benefits incorrectly paid on behalf of such individual, or

(B) in the case of the real property of an individual--(i) who is an inpatient in a nursing facility, intermediate care facility for the mentally retarded, or other medical institution . . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1396p(a)(1).

Plaintiff now moves for class certification for the following class: Missouri citizens who have received Medicaid and who had liens asserted and/or monies taken by Defendant out of their third party civil settlements or judgments from January 21, 2000 to present, where said settlements or judgments were unrelated to medical care and services, or where the liens asserted and or monies taken by the Defendants were in excess of the amount of said settlement or judgment related to medical care and services, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(a)(1).

[Doc. # 31 at 3.]

II. Discussion

A motion for class certification involves a two part analysis. First, the movant must demonstrate that the proposed class ...


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