Accident Care & Treatment Ctr., Inc. v. CSAA Gen. Ins. Co., Case No. 118,932

CourtUnited States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma
Citation483 P.3d 1
Docket NumberCase No. 118,932 , 118,935,118,934; ,Companion Case Nos. 118,933;
Parties ACCIDENT CARE AND TREATMENT CENTER, INC., Plaintiff/Appellee, v. CSAA GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY d/b/a AAA Insurance Company, Defendant/Appellant.
Decision Date30 December 2020

483 P.3d 1

ACCIDENT CARE AND TREATMENT CENTER, INC., Plaintiff/Appellee,
v.
CSAA GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY d/b/a AAA Insurance Company, Defendant/Appellant.

Case No. 118,932
Companion Case Nos. 118,933;
118,934;
118,935

Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma, Division No. 2.

FILED DECEMBER 30, 2020
Mandate Issued: January 27, 2021


Collin R. Walke, SELECT LEGAL SERVICES, L.L.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff/Appellee

Maurice G. Woods, II, Kelsey A. Chilcoat, MCATEE & WOODS, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Defendant/Appellant

OPINION BY DEBORAH B. BARNES, PRESIDING JUDGE:

¶1 This appeal concerns an action to enforce and foreclose a medical service lien. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to Appellee Accident Care and Treatment Center, Inc. (Accident Care) against Appellant CSAA General Insurance Company d/b/a AAA Insurance Company (CSAA) and denied CSAA's motion for rehearing.1 We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

483 P.3d 3

BACKGROUND

¶2 The parties agree about many of the facts pertinent to this appeal. Robert Hudson was injured in an automobile accident on December 1, 2017, allegedly caused by the negligence of CSAA's insured. Mr. Hudson submitted a third-party claim to CSAA. On January 8, 2018, Accident Care filed its lien for medical services provided to Mr. Hudson. The Notice of Medical Service Lien stated Accident Care claimed "a lien in the amount of $2,469.47 for medical services [provided to Mr. Hudson], as more particularly shown by the itemized statement hereto as Exhibit A (not attached)[.]"

¶3 On February 13, 2018, CSAA sent a letter to Accident Care asking that the letter "serve as a request for the reduction of the lien amount of $2,469.47 for medical services provided to [Mr. Hudson] [to] $1,275.16." CSAA stated it requested that reduction because it "believe[s] that the usual and customary charge for services listed on Mr. Hudson's medical bills is $1,275.16." Prior to sending this letter, on February 6, 2018, CSAA and Mr. Hudson executed a Release of All Claims for Bodily Injury Only in which Mr. Hudson acknowledged receipt of payment from CSAA in the amount of $950 "and an undetermined amount" for medical services provided by Accident Care. Among the various waivers and acknowledgements to which Mr. Hudson agreed, he agreed

to defend, indemnify and hold harmless [CSAA] against any claims, liens, demands, actions and causes of action asserted by any person, corporation ... or other entity seeking reimbursement of funds incurred or paid to or on behalf of [Mr. Hudson] for any purpose, which payments (including medical services) were necessitated or allegedly caused as a result of the accident ... that now exist, or may hereafter accrue against [CSAA].

In a letter to Mr. Hudson also dated February 6, 2018, CSAA stated it enclosed the "Release for your bodily injury claim prepared in the amount of $950.00 exclusive of [Accident Care's] lien as we discussed in our recent conversation." It also informed him that he had two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit or settle the claim and if he failed to do so, CSAA "will be entitled to deny your personal injury claim on that basis."

¶4 Mr. Hudson received a check from CSAA for $950 dated February 23, 2018; the check did not also name Accident Care as payee. As of November 18, 2019, Accident Care received no payments from CSAA, and Accident Care maintained, "[t]he total amount still owed and outstanding under the lien is $2,496.47."

¶5 Accident Care filed its amended petition seeking to foreclose its lien on June 7, 2019. CSAA answered, denying, among other things, the amount of Accident Care's lien and alleging various affirmative defenses including allegations that the amount of Accident Care's charges are unreasonable within the medical community and are unreasonable under the circumstances, and that Accident Care overcharged Mr. Hudson and "may have charged" Mr. Hudson for services it did not render to him.

¶6 Accident Care filed its motion for partial summary judgment to which it attached CSAA's responses to its Request for Admissions. CSAA denied Accident Care's request for Admission No. 1 that "each and every medical billing charge made by [Accident Care] was usual and customary and necessary." Request for Admission No. 2 stated: "Admit [Accident Care's] medical lien is a valid lien." CSAA responded: "[CSAA] does not dispute [Accident Care] completed the statutory steps to file a medical lien. Thus, in that sense, [CSAA] does not dispute that [Accident Care's] lien is ‘valid.’ "

¶7 In its motion, Accident Care requested the court "enter partial summary judgment on the issue of liability for [CSAA's] failure to include [it] on the settlement check," relying on Broadway Clinic v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co ., 2006 OK 29, 139 P.3d 873. In its prayer for relief, Accident Care requested judgment on the issue of liability and damages of $2,225.16 "(the amount admitted to be owed by [CSAA] plus the amount wrongfully

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paid outside of [Accident Care's] lien), plus pre and post-judgment interest."

¶8 Accident Care argues that under Oklahoma decisional law interpreting 42 O.S. 2011 § 46(B), CSAA was required to include it as payee on the $950 check made payable solely to its patient. Accident Care further argues, among other things, that what charges are "usual and customary" is irrelevant because CSAA has already determined that the usual and customary charge for the services Mr. Hudson received is $1,275.16. Accident Care further argues that because the medical service lien statute does not contain any language about whether a charge is usual and customary, CSAA has no independent authority to determine the reasonableness of the medical services it provided, or the amount charged for those services. It argues, among other things, that the proper course for CSAA was to file an interpleader action, 12 O.S. 2011 § 2022, to deposit with the court the funds CSAA determined were payable on Mr. Hudson's claim, and to allow the court to resolve how much was owed to Accident Care and to Mr. Hudson.

¶9 CSAA filed a response in objection to Accident Care's motion and a request pursuant to Rule 13(d), Oklahoma Rules for the District Courts, 12 O.S. 2011 & Supp. 2013, ch. 2, app. 1, for more time to conduct discovery.2 CSAA admits it issued a check to Mr. Hudson for "bodily injury" and that it was a settlement of Mr. Hudson's general damages claim. It does not dispute that it determined Accident Care is entitled to $1,275.16 for the medical services it provided to Mr. Hudson but asserts that fact "evidences the dispute between the parties as to the amount owed under the lien." It disputes the amount owed to Accident Care the amount claimed by Accident Care in its lien notice.

¶10 Among its arguments, CSAA asserts Accident Care has failed to meet its burden of proof in establishing each element of a lien foreclosure. It argues Accident Care has not proved that the amount "claimed" by the lien is the "amount due," pursuant to 42 O.S. § 46(B), and that Accident Care's "lien against the bodily injury claim held by its patient ([Mr.] Hudson) is ‘for the amount due’ not for the amount claimed by the lien." In other words, CSAA argues the amount due is a question of fact because the amount is disputed, and it is only obligated to pay the reasonable and necessary medical expenses Mr. Hudson incurred. It maintains a jury must decide both these questions of fact.

¶11 CSAA further argues that a lien does not imply an obligation. It relies on Oklahoma decisional law in non-medical lien cases in which the appellate courts have explained that "[t]he purpose of the lien statutes is ‘to give notice to the owners and to third parties of the intent to claim a lien for a definite amount,’ " and that "[t]he effect of filing a lien is the security of a claim for a definite amount, not the security of payment for a definite amount. It also argues neither Oklahoma decisional law nor statutory law mandates the issuance of joint checks to all known lienholders on settlement checks to third parties.

¶12 The hearing on Accident Care's motion included the motions it filed in three other cases.3 In addition to the parties' written arguments, CSAA also argued that Accident Care had not complied with the requirements of § 46(C) because absent from "each of [Accident Care's] motions for summary judgment, is any statement as to the amount allegedly due for the medical services rendered." It argued, "no statement of account or statement of the actual services rendered [is] attached to any of [the lien statements]. In the body of [Accident Care's] paragraph making [its] lien claim, [Accident Care] say[s] that the itemized statement of account is

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attached to Exhibit A, but in parenthesis, [it] say[s] ‘not attached.’ " Further, CSAA argued, Accident Care has "not presented the amount of the debt," "not in the filing of the liens, the presentation of [them], and especially not in the motions" Accident Care filed. CSAA argued that Broadway and other cases upon which Accident Care relies concern the monies to which a medical service lien can attach, not the issue of the correctness of the debt, the matter at issue here. The following exchange occurred at the hearing:

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