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Armstrong v. Metzner

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

April 22, 2015

HIRAM LAWRENCE ARMSTRONG
v.
SIMON METZNER, STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, AND PROGRESSIVE SECURITY INSURANCE COMPANY

APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2013-05693, DIVISION "G-11" Honorable Robin M. Giarrusso, Judge.

Vernon P. Thomas Attorney at Law, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE.

Tamara D. Simien Senior Staff Attorney LSU Health Care Services Division, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT.

Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Dennis R. Bagneris, Sr., Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Paul A. Bonin, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano.

JOY COSSICH LOBRANO, JUDGE.

Defendant, the Board of Supervisors for Louisiana State University Agricultural and Mechanical College through the Health Care Services Division ("LSU"), appeals the July 21, 2014 trial court judgment issued pursuant to a writ of mandamus filed by plaintiff, Hiram Armstrong. This writ of mandamus was filed by plaintiff for the reduction and determination of the amount of money to be paid to LSU (which formerly operated the Interim LSU Public Hospital) and to University Medical Center Management Company d/b/a Interim Louisiana Hospital ("University") pursuant to their liens and privileges filed under La. R.S. 9:4752 for reimbursement of medical expenses paid for plaintiff's care related to his February 22, 2013 accident.

On June 14, 2013, plaintiff filed a petition for damages as a result of a February 22, 2013 accident, which occurred when plaintiff was riding a bicycle on D'Abadie Street in New Orleans and was struck by a vehicle driven by Simon Metzner. Plaintiff named Metzner as a defendant, along with Metzner's insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, and plaintiff's uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage insurer, Progressive Security Insurance Company.

On May 20, 2014, plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandamus against the State of Louisiana, through the Department of Health and Hospitals ("DHH"). Plaintiff attached to his petition a letter dated February 5, 2014 to him from LSU and University, formally notifying him of their liens and privileges under the provisions of La. R.S. 9:4752, et seq., against the proceeds of any recovery by plaintiff for personal injuries suffered in the accident. These privileges were asserted to recoup payment for medical services rendered to plaintiff. Plaintiff alleged that he has compromised and settled his claims against Metzner's insurer, State Farm, and his uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier, Progressive, and those defendants have issued checks for payment of plaintiff's claim, with the checks being made payable to plaintiff, his attorney and Interim LSU Public Hospital. Settlement documents have been executed by plaintiff, and pleadings required to dismiss and terminate this lawsuit have been completed. However, according to plaintiff, the delay and inaction of DHH has halted any progression of the settlement process.

By letters dated February 18, 2014 and March 12, 2014, plaintiff asked DHH[1] for its assistance in reducing the liens to an acceptable amount that plaintiff could pay. However, as of the date the petition for writ of mandamus was filed, plaintiff received no response from DHH. Plaintiff alleged that other attempts to get information from DHH have also been unsuccessful. Plaintiff further alleged that he returned the checks issued by the insurers based on his concern that the checks would become "stale" due to his inability to satisfy the liens and privileges of DHH.

Plaintiff alleged that he is aggrieved by the delay and inaction of DHH, and asked the trial court to order DHH to provide him with information regarding the dollar amount required to pay and satisfy the liens and privileges within a certain period of time, or, in the alternative, that the court order DHH to appear and show cause why the liens and privileges should not be dissolved. After plaintiff's petition for writ of mandamus was filed, the trial court issued an order on May 20, 2014, ordering DHH to provide plaintiff with information regarding the dollar amount of money required to pay and satisfy the liens and privileges in these proceedings by the close of business on June 3, 2014.

On May 30, 2014, plaintiff amended his petition for writ of mandamus, alleging that after the filing of his original petition for writ of mandamus, the LSU Health Care Services Division sent plaintiff a letter, stating $28, 900.00 as the total dollar amount of the liens and privileges owed for services rendered by LSU and University. Plaintiff alleged that this amount varies greatly from the guidelines for negotiating a Medicaid lien as established by the United States Supreme Court in Arkansas Dept. of Health and Human Services v. Ahlborn, 547 U.S. 268, 126 S.Ct. 1752, 164 L.Ed.2d 459 (2006). Plaintiff contended that the offer of settlement of the total lien amount stated by LSU is at such great variance with the guidelines of the Ahlborn case that it is tantamount to being in defiance of the trial court's May 20, 2014 order, and in defiance of the guidelines established in the Ahlborn case. Plaintiff asked the trial court to fix the dollar amount of the liens and privileges, because of LSU's alleged unwillingness to do so within the guidelines established by the United States Supreme Court in the Ahlborn case.

On June 27, 2014, LSU and University filed an answer to plaintiff's original and amended petitions for writ of mandamus, alleging that they are the proper defendants in this matter, and not DHH. They further alleged that they presented initial offers of lien reduction to plaintiff's counsel on May 12, 2014, not on May 29, 2014 as alleged by plaintiff. They also alleged that the liens at issue are not Medicaid liens; rather, they are healthcare provider liens, so the Ahlborn case cited by plaintiff is not applicable.

The answer alleged that between February 22, 2013 and May 31, 2013, the Interim LSU Public Hospital, the former public medical facility that was managed by LSU Health Care Services Division (LSU) through June 23, 2013, provided medical treatment to plaintiff in the amount of $51, 801.66, which is still due and owing. Between July 26, 2013 and January 24, 2014, the University Medical Center Management Company d/b/a the Interim Louisiana Hospital (University), the private medical facility that took over the operations of the Interim LSU Public Hospital on June 24, 2013, provided medical treatment to plaintiff in the amount of $6, 912.73, which is still due and owing. On February 5, 2014, both LSU and University issued to plaintiff formal notices of their liens and privileges, pursuant to La. R.S. 9:4752, et seq., for these outstanding charges. Letters sent to plaintiff dated May 12, 2014 show that LSU offered to reduce its lien amount to $25, 900.00 for full payment, and University offered to reduce its lien amount to $3, 000.00 for full payment.

DHH also filed an answer to the original and amended petitions for writ of mandamus, stating that it has not paid any medical expenses related to injuries sustained by plaintiff in the February 22, 2013 accident. Accordingly, DHH confirmed that it is not ...


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