USA Hospitals v. Kemp

Filing 8

ORDER denying 2 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. Signed by Senior Judge Charles R. Butler, Jr on 7/27/2015. copies to parties. (sdb)

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IN  THE  UNITED  STATES  DISTRICT  COURT  FOR  THE   SOUTHERN  DISTRICT  OF  ALABAMA   SOUTHERN  DIVISION     USA  HOSPITALS,     Plaintiff,     v.     DAVID  KEMP,     Defendant.         )   )   )   )   )   )   )   )   )           CIVIL  ACTION  NO.   15-­‐00332-­‐CB-­‐M       ORDER   This  matter  is  before  the  Court  on  a  motion  to  dismiss  for  lack  of  subject   matter  jurisdiction,  or  in  the  alternative  to  stay  proceedings,  filed  by  the  defendant,   David  Kemp.    (Doc.  2.)    After  careful  consideration  of  the  motion,  Defendant’s   supporting  brief  (Doc.  3),  Plaintiff’s  response  (Doc.  6),  and  Defendant’s  Reply   (Defendant’s  reply,  the  Court  finds  that  the  motion  is  due  to  be  denied.   Background     This  action  was  initially  filed  in  the  Circuit  Court  of  Mobile  County  Alabama   on  May  22,  2015.  On  June  26,  2015,  Kemp  filed  a  notice  of  removal  asserting   removal  jurisdiction  based  on  diversity  of  citizenship  because  Kemp  is  a  resident  of   Mississippi,  USA  Hospitals  is  an  Alabama  corporation  with  its  principal  place  of   business  in  Mobile,  Alabama,  and  the  amount  in  controversy  exceeds  $75,000.     The  Complaint  is  simple.    It  alleges  that  Kemp  owes  USA  Hospitals   $106,366.98  for  medical  treatment  rendered  to  Kemp  not  paid  by  insurance.    USA   seeks  to  recover  that  amount  plus  interest  and  attorney’s  fees  through  claims  of   open  account,  account  stated,  and  breach  of  contract.    According  to  the  motion  to   dismiss,  these  charges  were  incurred  as  result  treatment  for  injuries  Kemp  received   in  an  automobile  accident.    Kemp  “is  currently  in  settlement  negotiations  with  the   [d]efendant  in  the  underlying  collision  case.”    (Def.’s  Br.  2,  Doc.  3.)         On  May  29,  2014,  USA  Hospitals  filed  a  Notice  of  Hospital  Lien  in  the  Probate   Court  of  Mobile  County,  Alabama.    This  lien  alleges,  in  relevant  part:   Under  the  provisions  of  Title  35,  Chapter  11,  Division  15,  Code  of   Alabama,  1975,  notice  is  hereby  given  that  the  University  of  South   Alabama  Hospitals,  a  public  body  corporate  whose  address  is  2451   Fillingim  Street,  Suite  3040,  Mobile,  Alabama  3617,  claims  a  lien  for  all   reasonable  charges  for  hospital  care  treatment  and  maintenance  by   injuries  received  by[  ]  David  Kemp.  .  .  .  Upon  any  and  all  actions   claims,  counterclaims  and  demands  accruing  to  [Kemp],  and  upon  all   judgments  settlements  and  settlement  agreements  entered  into  by   virtue  thereof  on  account  of  injuries  giving  rise  to  such  actions  claims,   counterclaims  demands,  judgments,  settlements  or  settlement   agreements  and  which  necessitated  such  hospital  care.       (Doc.  2,  Ex.  A.)   Issues  Presented     Ironically,  Kemp  has  invoked  this  Court’s  removal  jurisdiction  only  to  file  a   motion  to  dismiss  for  lack  of  subject  matter  jurisdiction  or,  alternatively,  to  stay.   Kemp  argues,  in  essence,  that  subject  matter  jurisdiction  is  lacking  because  Plaintiff   has  also  filed  a  hospital  lien  and  the  amount  of  the  hospital  lien  cannot  be   determined  until  the  underlying  personal  injury  claims  are  reduced  to  judgment.    In   response,  USA  Hospitals  argues  that  its  claims  are  not  based  on  the  hospital  lien   statute.   Discussion     Kemp’s  motion  to  dismiss  or  to  stay  rests  entirely  on  Univ.  of  S.  Ala.  Hosps.  v.   Blackmon,  987  So.  2d  1138  (Ala.  Civ.  App.  2007),  a  case  involving  the  disputed     2   amount  of  a  hospital  lien.    Blackmon  arose  in  the  context  of  a  personal  injury   lawsuit.    Blackmon,  who  was  injured  in  a  car  accident,  sued  the  automobile  and  tire   manufacturers.    As  part  of  the  settlement  negotiations  in  that  suit,  “Blackmon  filed  a   motion,  purportedly  pursuant  to  §  35-­‐11-­‐373.  .  .  in  which  she  asked  the  trial  court  to   determine  the  validity  of  USAH’s  lien,  the  reasonable  amount  due  on  the  lien,  and   the  manner  in  which  .  .  .  her  potential  settlement  [proceeds]  .  .  .  should  be   distributed  between  USAH  and  herself.”    Id.  at  1140.    The  trial  court  subsequently   entered  an  order  declaring  the  amount  of  the  lien.    Blackmon  settled  her  claims   against  the  manufacturers,  but  that  settlement  was  not  reduced  to  judgment.    The   hospital  appealed  the  decision  with  respect  to  the  amount  of  the  lien.      The  Alabama   Court  of  Civil  Appeals  held  that  the  trial  court  was  without  subject  matter   jurisdiction  to  determine  the  amount  of  the  lien  because  the  underlying  claim,  i.e.   the  dispute  between  Blackmon  and  the  manufacturers,  had  not  been  reduced  to   judgment.    Simply  put,  §  35-­‐11-­‐373,  gives  a  trial  court  jurisdiction  to  determine  the   amount  of  a  hospital  lien  when  the  person  who  is  the  subject  of  the  lien  has  filed  a   claim  in  that  court  and  the  claim  “has  been  reduced  to  judgment.”    Id.    The  clear   language  of  the  statute,  according  to  the  appellate  court,  required  that  the   underlying  claim  be  reduced  to  a  judgment  before  the  trial  court  could  exercise   jurisdiction  to  determine  the  amount.    Because  the  settlement  was  never  reduced  to   a  judgment,  the  trial  court  lacked  subject  matter  jurisdiction  under  the  lien  statute.     The  instant  case  is  not  controlled  by  Blackmon  for  several  reasons.    First  and   foremost,  no  party  has  asserted  jurisdiction  under  Ala.  Code  §  35-­‐11-­‐373,  which  was   the  only  basis  for  subject  matter  jurisdiction  in  that  case.    Second,  this  case  does  not     3   involve  the  determination  of  the  amount  of  a  hospital  lien  or  the  lien  statute.     Instead,  it  is  a  suit  based  on  state  common  law  claims  for  money  owed  on  account   and  breach  of  contract.    Moreover,  contrary  to  Kemp’s  argument,  nothing  in   Blackmon  or  in  the  hospital  lien  statute,  Ala.  Code  §§  35-­‐11-­‐370,  et  seq.  preempts   common  law.    Kemp  has  pointed  to  no  Alabama  law  that  would  require  a  hospital  to   choose  between  pursuing  a  lien  and  pursuing  a  common  law  claim.    Nor  has  he  cited   any  law  that  would  require  a  hospital  to  await  the  outcome  of  the  patient’s  personal   injury  action  before  instituting  a  collection  proceeding.             Conclusion     For  the  foregoing  reasons,  Defendant’s  motion  to  dismiss  or,  alternatively,  to   stay  is  DENIED.     DONE  and  ORDERED  this  the  27th  day  of  July,  2015.                                 s/  Charles  R.  Butler,  Jr.       Senior  United  States  District  Judge   4    

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