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FL: hospital sues to enforce lien for treatment: Florida bans hospital liens created by contract.

CASE FACTS: The case involved an appeal and cross appeal of a final judgment in a suit for damages for impairment of a hospital lien under Florida law. The hospital costs incurred by a person who sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident and was treated at Shands Teaching Hospitals and Clinics, Inc. (Shands Hospital). The hospital sought to invoke a lien on so much of the proceeds which were awarded in a judgment for the accident victim for the costs of treatment by the hospital of a judgment which the accident victim was awarded to be paid by Mercury Insurance Company of Florida (Mercury Insurance). Mercury Insurance challenged the validity of the Florida law upon which the hospital relied on in its contention that it was entitled to a lien on the amount awarded the accident victim for treatment rendered by Shands Hospital. The hospital further contended that the hospital lien attached to assets of the patient hospitalized at the hospital, including the patient's cause of action against the tortfeasor responsible for the patient's injuries and the tortfeasor's liability insurance carrier, in this case Mercury Insurance. The trial and ordered judgement for Shands Hospital. Mercury Insurance appealed.

COURT'S OPINION: The District Court of Appeals of Florida reversed the order entered by the trial court in favor of Shands Hospital. The court held, inter alia, that a special law, which creates a lien based on a private contract to be in violation of Florida's Constitution. Accordingly, the court determined that Florida law prohibited the type of lien upon which Shands Hospital relied, and ruled that the trial court erred in entering judgment for Shands Hospital. The court cited the applicable section of the Florida Constitution, which states in pertinent part: "[t]here shall be no special law or general law of local application pertaining to ... creation, enforcement, extension or impairment of liens based on private contracts, or fixing of interest rates on private contracts." The court concluded that the issue in question involved a special law, which created a lien based on a private contract between Shands Hospital and its patient, in violation of the Florida Constitution. The court commented on the fact that the Florida Hospital Association had filed a Amicus Curiae brief in which it argued that the hospital's lien was not based on a private contract, but stemmed from a public pact with the hospital, which was required by federal law to provide emergency service. However, the court found that the lien did not attach to the public's assets, but rather to the assets of the patient whose contract with the hospital was a "private" one, and therefore the court rejected the Association's contention. Mercury Insurance Company of Florida v. Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, Inc., 2009-FL-0722.316 (7/ 21/2009)--FL

A. David Tammelleo JD Editor & Publisher

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for over 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with the Rhode Island firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospital Law's Regan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, Marquis Who Who in American Law, Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.
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Title Annotation:Hospital Law Decision of Note
Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Publication:Hospital Law's Regan Report
Date:Aug 1, 2009
Words:597
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