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Howard County Ambulance District v. City of Fayette

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

February 20, 2018

HOWARD COUNTY AMBULANCE DISTRICT, Appellant,
v.
CITY OF FAYETTE, MISSOURI, Respondent.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF HOWARD COUNTY, MISSOURI THE HONORABLE CYNTHIA A. SUTER, JUDGE

          Before: Thomas H. Newton, Presiding Judge, Victor C. Howard, Judge and Karen King Mitchell, Judge

          VICTOR C. HOWARD, JUDGE

         Howard County Ambulance District appeals the judgment of the trial court, following a bench trial, in favor of the City of Fayette on the Ambulance District's claim against the City for payment of a medical bill for services provided to Lance Brown while Brown was detained by a City law enforcement officer. The trial court determined that there was no written agreement between the Ambulance District and the City regarding ambulance services, as required by section 432.070.[1] In its two points on appeal, the Ambulance District argues that trial court erred in making such determination because (1) section 190.060 and Howard County Ambulance District Ordinance No. 2 provides it the power to fix, charge, and collect reasonable fees and nothing in state law limits such power and (2) an exceptional circumstance exists to relieve the contractual requirement of section 432.070. The judgment is affirmed.

         Background[2]

         Howard County Ambulance District is a political subdivision organized under the Chapter 190, RSMo, to provide ambulance services within Howard County. The City of Fayette is a class four municipality organized under Chapter 79, RSMo, and located in Howard County.

         On October 15, 2011, Officer Matt Jones, a reserve police officer for the City of Fayette, was dispatched on a report of a prowler and came into contact Lance Brown. After a short foot pursuit, Officer Jones took Brown into custody and placed him in handcuffs. The officer discovered that Brown was seventeen years old and very intoxicated. Concerned for his health and well-being, the officer summoned the EMS.

         The Ambulance District dispatched personnel to the scene including Paramedic Frank Flaspohler. Paramedic Flaspohler initially assessed Brown, who was sitting in the police car handcuffed, with an altered level of consciousness, nauseated, and vomiting. He suspected alcohol intoxication but also knew a number of other things could cause his condition. The paramedic determined that Brown required medical attention and recommended that he be transported to the hospital.

         At some point, Officer Jones called Brown's mother, Janice Brown, and told her the situation. He explained that Brown needed to be transported to the hospital and asked if she consented and to which hospital she wanted him taken. Brown's mother consented and told the officer to have him taken to Boonville. She never arrived at the scene and never offered to take her son to the hospital. Officer Jones released Brown out of custody and the handcuffs, and Brown was taken in the ambulance to the hospital.

         Officer Jones did not sign anything with the Ambulance District at the scene. The City has agreements with various municipal type entities including a fire district, a rural water district, and a rural electric district. These agreements are in writing and approved by the Board of Alderman. The City does not have a written agreement with the Ambulance District. City police officers do not have authority to bind the City for medical care or ambulance transport.

         In November 2011, the Ambulance District billed Janice Brown $1, 266.01 for the cost of the transport of her son to the hospital. In April 2016, it filed a petition against her seeking payment of the bill. In September 2016, it amended its petition to assert a claim against the City for payment of the ambulance bill. Until the lawsuit, the Ambulance District had not made a demand to the City for the cost of the ambulance service for Brown.

         Following a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the City finding that there was no written agreement between the Ambulance and the City for the ambulance service as required by section 432.070. The trial court entered judgment against Janice Brown in the amount of $1, 266.01. This appeal by the Ambulance District followed.

         Analysis

         In its two points on appeal, the Ambulance District argues that trial court erred in entering judgment in favor of the City based on the lack of a written agreement between the Ambulance District and the City regarding ambulance services, as required by section 432.070. Review of a court-tried case is governed by Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). The trial court's judgment is affirmed unless it is unsupported by substantial evidence, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. Id.; Curry Inv. Co., 494 S.W.3d at 24. The reviewing court views all of the evidence and the reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the ...


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