United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
DORIS ERGLE LINDSEY PRATT, Individually and on behalf of all other Similarly situated persons, Plaintiff,
AIR EVAC LIFETEAM and AIR EVAC EMS, INC., Defendants.
DOUGLAS HARPOOL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.
parties submitted initial briefing and sur-replies regarding
this motion. (Docs. 14, 19, 24, 27, and 29). On November 8,
2017, the Court held a hearing on this motion (Doc. 33),
after which Defendant filed supplemental briefing. (Doc. 35).
Thereafter, the Court permitted the parties to engage in
limited discovery concerning certain issues pertaining to the
motion. (Doc. 36). After completing discovery, the parties
submitted final briefing regarding the motion. (Docs. 44, 45,
and 46). The matter is now ripe for review.
judgment is proper if, viewing the record in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue
of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). “Where there
is no dispute of material fact and reasonable fact finders
could not find in favor of the nonmoving party, summary
judgment is appropriate.” Quinn v. St. Louis
County, 653 F.3d 745, 750 (8th Cir. 2011). Initially,
the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the movant meets the
initial step, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to
“set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To do
so, the moving party must “do more than simply show
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
action arises from a dispute concerning the right of an air
ambulance service to seek repayment for its services from
certain insurance benefits following an automobile crash in
which Plaintiff required the use of the air ambulance
Evac EMS, Inc., advertises and sells memberships related to
its services. Plaintiff purchased a membership with Air Evac.
In November 2008, she renewed that membership and signed a
contract setting out the terms and conditions of her
membership. A handful of provisions in that contract are
relevant to this case:
. Air Evac EMS, Inc. (d/b/a Air Evac
Lifeteam and d/b/a Texas Lifestar) (“AEL”) offers
memberships that provide prepaid protection against AEL air
ambulance costs that are not covered by a member's
insurance or medical benefits, subject to the following terms
. 3. Members who have insurance or other
benefits that cover the cost of ambulance services are
financially liable for the cost of services up to the limit
of any available insurance or benefit coverage. In return for
payment of the membership fee, AEL will consider all air
ambulance costs not covered by any insurance or benefits
available to the member to have been fully prepaid. AEL
reserves the right to bill directly the appropriate insurance
or benefits provider for services rendered, and members
authorize their insurer or benefits provider to pay any
covered amounts to AEL directly. Members agree to remit to
AEL any payment received from insurance or benefits providers
for air medical services provided by AEL, not to exceed
regular charges. . . .
. I authorize my insurer or benefits
provider to pay any covered amounts to AEL directly.
. These terms and conditions supersede all
previous terms and conditions between a member and AEL,
including other writings, or oral representations, relating
to the terms and conditions of membership abuse of the
roughly the same time that Plaintiff received the membership
contract, she also received a letter from Air Evac
encouraging her to renew her membership. That letter
states, in pertinent part:
. To avoid any lapse in your membership, we
encourage you to take time now and renew your membership.
. Your membership means that Air Evac will
work on your behalf with your medical benefits provider to
secure payment for your medical emergency flight. Whatever
your medical benefits provider pays will always be considered
payment in full for your flight.
December 2009, Plaintiff was in an automobile accident in
Russellville, Alabama. As a result of the accident, Plaintiff
was severely injured and her elderly mother was killed.
Plaintiff required the use of Air Evac's services for
transportation to a hospital in Huntsville, Alabama.
February 4, 2010, Air Evac submitted to Alfa Insurance a
“Notice of Claim of Debt” regarding a claim
identified as #D07-1001. Alfa Insurance had previously
identified this claim as relating to Plaintiffs automobile
accident. That claim pertained to a policy held by Rachel
Ergle, Plaintiff s mother. Alfa Insurance identified
Plaintiff as a “covered person” under that
policy. The Alfa Insurance policy in Rachel Ergle's name
stated, regarding “medical payments coverage”:
. If this coverage is shown on your
declaration, we will pay reasonable expenses incurred for
necessary medical and funeral services because of bodily
injury caused by a car accident and sustained by a covered
February 22, 2010, Air Evac sent to Plaintiff a letter
indicating Air Evac submitted a claim to Plaintiff's
health insurance carrier, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of
Alabama, in the amount of $18, 249.68 for the cost of the air
ambulance flight. Blue Cross paid Air Evac $8, 294 for its
services. Following receipt of this payment, Air Evac
provided Alfa Insurance with a “Partial Satisfaction of
Lien” acknowledging the payment and indicating that
$9.955.68 remained unpaid. That
“lien” remains in place today.
April 2010, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit arising out of the
automobile accident naming as Defendants Courtney Lindsey,
David Lindsey, Alfa Insurance, and State Farm Insurance. The
claim directed at Alfa Insurance demanded that Alfa pay the
policy limits of the uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits
of an automobile insurance policy applicable to
Plaintiff's vehicle. In August 2010, Air Evac wrote to
Plaintiff's counsel in that case and requested an
assignment of benefits. Air Evac and Plaintiff's counsel
exchanged letters discussing the matter over the course of
the following months. Ultimately, in March 2011,
Plaintiff's counsel concluded that Plaintiff owed no
money to Air Evac based on her membership. Air Evac responded
that the automobile insurance coverage was applicable to the
Air Evac membership agreement and that Air Evac had a right
to collect based on that coverage. The record before the Court
does not show any further contact between Plaintiff and Air
Evac, or Plaintiff's counsel and Air Evac, until the
commencement of this action by Plaintiff.
the course of the limited discovery permitted in this matter,
the parties deposed two Air Evac employees, Joshua Redfield
and Patricia Thompson. Their testimony indicated that, to
date, Plaintiff's account has not been officially zeroed
out or the balance otherwise waived. However, that is due to
the hold placed on Plaintiff's account as a result of
active litigation. Both employees testified that Air Evac has
not pursued any attempt to collect the remaining balance in
the years since Plaintiff's then-counsel refused to pay
Air Evac from the proceeds of Plaintiff's claim against
Alfa Insurance. Furthermore, both employees testified that
Air Evac has no intention of attempting to collect the
remaining balance on Plaintiff's account, and that it is
waiving the remaining balance, regardless of the outcome of
the litigation pending before this Court.
lien Air Evac sent to Alfa Insurance concerning Claim
#D07-1001 has not been rescinded. However, Patricia Thompson
testified that Alfa Insurance refused to acknowledge the lien
and Alfa Insurance had already paid the proceeds of that
claim to Plaintiff following a settlement. Air Evac contends
it has not rescinded the lien because Air Evac ...