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Truman Medical Center, Inc. v. American Standard Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

January 24, 2017


         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable Jennifer M. Phillips, Judge

          Before: Lisa White Hardwick, Presiding Judge, Gary Witt, Judge, Anthony

          Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge

         American Standard Insurance Company of Wisconsin (American Standard) appeals the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to Truman Medical Center, Inc. (Truman Medical) on Truman Medical's First Amended Petition to Enforce Hospital's Lien Pursuant to Section 430.250, RSMo. 2000. American Standard argues that the court erred in granting a judgment enforcing the lien because the lien was not a valid and enforceable lien under Section 430.240, RSMo Cum. Supp. 2013, because the lien notice failed to include the name of the person alleged to be liable to the injured person and, further, Truman Medical failed to perfect the alleged hospital lien by supplementing the lien notice once the identity of the person alleged to be liable to the injured person became known. We affirm.

         There is no dispute regarding the underlying facts. On November 19, 2013, Charles Fanning was involved in an automobile accident with a driver insured by American Standard. Fanning received treatment at Truman Medical for injuries he sustained as a result of the accident. He had outstanding medical bills in the amount of $4, 347.02 arising out of that treatment. Fanning claimed that the injuries sustained and the resulting damages were caused by the negligence of American Standard's insured driver.

         On the day of the accident, Fanning was interviewed by an agent of Truman Medical. Fanning advised the agent about his claim with American Standard, including the claim number, but he could not recall the name of the woman who collided with his vehicle, only saying "a lady" ran a stop sign. Truman Medical's attorney contacted American Standard on behalf of Truman Medical to verify the claim information prior to sending the hospital lien notice. There was apparently no discussion regarding the name of the "lady" who had insurance liability coverage through American Standard. On November 25, 2013, Truman Medical sent a written lien notice to American Standard regarding treatment it provided to Fanning for injuries sustained in the accident. The notice stated that the "name of the person or persons, firm or firms, corporation or corporations alleged to be liable to Charles Ray Fanning for the injuries received is unknown." No party disputes that Truman Medical was actually unaware at the time the lien notice was sent of the name of the woman alleged to have caused Fanning's injuries.

         American Standard received Truman Medical's lien notice and matched it to the correct claim file. Fanning's attorney wrote to American Standard on April 22, 2014, making an offer to settle Fanning's claim for $25, 000.00, citing the treatment at Truman Medical as related to the accident. American Standard considered Fanning's medical bills from Truman Medical in evaluating Fanning's claim and when making an offer of settlement to Fanning. American Standard had a discussion with Fanning's attorney regarding the validity of Truman Medical's lien, and decided not to pay the lien because American Standard did not believe the lien to be valid. On or about June 20, 2014, American Standard settled Fanning's claim for $25, 000.00. No portion of the settlement was paid by American Standard to Truman Medical for the medical services rendered to Fanning stemming from the accident associated with the settlement.

         Truman Medical filed suit pursuant to Section 430.250 to enforce its lien. American Standard refused to honor the lien contending that the lien was invalid pursuant to Section 430.250. American Standard argued that Section 430.250 provides that a lien is only valid if the requirements of Section 430.240 are complied with, and Section 430.240 requires that the lien notice include the name of the tortfeasor alleged to be liable for the injuries the hospital provided services for; because Truman Medical's lien notice did not include the name of the lady whose collision with Fanning caused Fanning injuries, the lien was ineffective. Truman Medical disagreed and argued that Section 430.240 only requires designation of the tortfeasor if that person or entity was actually known at the time the lien notice was drafted.

         Both Truman Medical and American Standard filed motions for summary judgment on stipulated facts. In its judgment the court indicated that the "sole legal question before this Court is the importance of the words 'if known' in R.S.Mo. § 430.240." The court ultimately concluded:

While the statute is confusing as written, this Court reads R.S.Mo. § 430.240 to waive both the requirement to mail the lien notice of the allegedly liable party and the requirement to list the name of the allegedly liable party in the written notice. The inclusion of the phrase 'if known' recognizes that a hospital might have only partial information about a patient's accident. It seems the intent of the inclusion of the phrase 'if known' was to excuse a hospital from including this information that it didn't know or could not know. Courts should presume that the legislature intended that every word, clause, sentence, and provision of a statute have effect. Steven v. Residential Funding Corp., 334 S.W.3d 477, 498 (Mo. App. 2010). A hospital can only include information in a lien notice insofar as it has the information to include.

         The circuit court granted Truman Medical's motion for summary judgment, denied American Standard's motion for summary judgment, and entered judgment in favor of Truman Medical and against American Standard in the amount of $4, 346.02. American Standard appeals.

         "The propriety of summary judgment is purely an issue of law" and, therefore, our review of a summary judgment is de novo. ITT Commercial Fin. Corp. v. Mid-Am. Marine Supply Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993). We will affirm the circuit court's grant of summary judgment if no genuine issues of material fact exist and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 381.

         We review questions of statutory interpretation de novo. Ivie v. Smith, 439 S.W.3d 189, 202 (Mo. banc 2014). Our primary rule of statutory interpretation is to give effect to the legislative intent as reflected in the plain language of the statute at issue. Id. We will look beyond the plain meaning of the statute only when the language is ambiguous or would lead to an absurd or illogical result. Bateman v. Rinehart, 391 S.W.3d 441, 446 (Mo. banc 2013).

A statute is ambiguous when its plain language does not answer the current dispute as to its meaning. Ambiguities in statutes are resolved by determining the intent of the legislature and by giving effect to its intent if possible. When determining the legislative intent of a statute, no portion of the statute is read in isolation, but rather the portions are read in context to harmonize all of the statute's provisions. Rules of statutory construction are used to ...

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