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Truman Medical Centers, Inc. v. McKay

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

December 20, 2016

TRUMAN MEDICAL CENTERS, INC., Appellant,
v.
JOHN E. MCKAY, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable Robert L. Trout, Judge

          Before Lisa White Hardwick, PJ, Gary D. Witt, Anthony Rex Gabbert, JJ

          Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge.

         Truman Medical Center, Inc. (Truman Medical) appeals the circuit court's judgment dismissing its Petition against John McKay which alleged that McKay made payments to Stephanie Jo Middleton as compensation for an injury without first paying Truman Medical for services rendered to Middleton pursuant to Section 430.250.[1] The court dismissed the petition on the grounds that, pursuant to Section 430.240, Truman Medical's lien notice was ineffective because the name of the person liable to the injured party was not provided in the lien notice and because medical liens do not apply to the injured party's attorney. We affirm.

         Middleton was injured on March 12, 2014, in an automobile accident when Mallory Simmons failed to stop for a stop sign. Simmons carried liability insurance through State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm). Truman Medical treated Middleton for injuries resulting from the automobile accident and furnished medical services to Middleton in the amount of $2, 673.69. Middleton had a personal injury claim against State Farm arising out of the accident and McKay represented Middleton as her attorney. A lien notice was sent by Truman Medical to State Farm containing Middleton's name and address, the date of the accident, and Truman Medical's name and location. At the time the lien notice was sent to State Farm, Truman Medical was unaware that Simmons was the person whose vehicle had collided with Middleton's. The notice stated that the "name of the person or persons, firm or firms, corporation or corporations alleged to be liable to Stephanie Jo Middleton for the injuries received is unknown."

         Prior to a settlement being reached, Truman Medical corresponded with both State Farm and McKay regarding the lien and the claimed lien amount; never during these communications did State Farm or McKay assert that the lien notice was defective. On April 21, 2015, State Farm contacted Truman Medical requesting a final lien amount and copies of additional bills. On April 22, 2015, Truman Medical sent a letter to both State Farm and McKay regarding the lien amount. On or about May 20, 2015, State Farm settled with Middleton through her attorney, McKay. At that time State farm reminded McKay of Truman Medical's lien, but McKay requested that State Farm forego paying the lien because McKay believed that the lien did not meet all of the essential elements required for it to be enforceable. State Farm issued payment as compensation for Middleton's injuries without paying Truman Medical's lien. McKay forwarded settlement funds to Middleton.

         On February 11, 2016, Truman Medical filed suit against both State Farm and McKay alleging that both parties were liable to Truman Medical for failing to honor the hospital lien that they had actual notice of but chose to ignore. At the time of this lawsuit filing, Truman Medical was still unsure of the name of the person who directly caused Middleton's injuries. On March 17, 2016, McKay moved to dismiss Truman Medical's petition on the grounds that Truman Medical had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because Truman Medical admitted in the petition that the name of the person liable to Middleton was not provided in the lien notice as required by Section 430.240, thereby making the lien ineffective, and because medical liens do not apply to attorneys for the injured party. Prior to the court ruling on McKay's motion, a stipulation of dismissal was filed, dismissing with prejudice Truman Medical's claims against State Farm. Truman Medical's claims against McKay remained.

         On March 30, 2016, the court agreed with both of the grounds asserted by McKay for dismissal and granted McKay's motion. Truman Medical appeals.

         We review the trial court's grant of a motion to dismiss de novo. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District v. City of Bellefontaine Neighbors, 476 S.W.3d 913, 915 (Mo. banc 2016). We view the facts contained in the petition as true and in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. If the petition contains any facts that, if proven, would entitle the plaintiff to relief, then the petition states a claim. Id. To state a claim, a petition must invoke substantive principles of law entitling the plaintiff to relief. McIlvoy v. Sharp, 485 S.W.3d 367, 372 (Mo. App. 2016). We must affirm the trial court's ruling if the motion to dismiss could have been sustained on any of the grounds raised in the motion regardless of whether the trial court ruled on that ground. Id.

         Truman Medical contends on appeal that the circuit court erred in dismissing Truman Medical's petition on the grounds that the lien was ineffective, as well as on the grounds that medical liens do not apply to attorneys for the injured party. We address Truman Medical's second point alleging court error in its finding the medical lien enforcement statutes inapplicable to McKay as this issue is dispositive.

         Section 430.230 provides, in relevant part:

Every public hospital or clinic, and every privately maintained hospital, clinic or other institution for the care of the sick, which is supported in whole or in part by charity, located within the state of Missouri . . . shall have a lien upon any and all claims, counterclaims, demands, suits, or rights of action of any person admitted to any hospital, clinic or other institution and receiving treatment, care or maintenance therein for any cause including any personal injury sustained by such person as the result of the negligence or wrongful act of another, which such injured person may have, assert or maintain against the person or persons causing such injury for damages on account of such injury, for the cost of such service, computed at reasonable rates not to exceed twenty-five dollars per day and the reasonable cost of necessary X-ray, laboratory, operating room and medication service, as such hospital, clinic, or other institution shall render such injured person on account of his conditions . . . .

         Section 430.240 states:

No such lien shall be effective, however, unless a written notice containing the name and address of the injured person, the date of the accident, the name and location of the hospital and the name of the person or persons, firm or firms, corporation or corporations alleged to be liable to the injured party for the injuries received shall be sent by certified mail with return receipt requested to the person or persons, firm or firms, corporation or corporations, if known, alleged to be liable to the injured party, if known, for the injuries sustained prior to the payment of any moneys to such injured person, his attorneys or legal representative, as compensation for such injuries. Such hospital shall send by ...

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