S.S., by and through his mother and guardian, Staci Shaffer, and Staci Shaffer, Appellants,
IHC Health Services, Inc., Cardon Healthcare Network, LLC, and Cardon Outreach, Appellees.
Direct Appeal Third District, Salt Lake The Honorable Kara L.
Pettit No. 150909015
Leonard E. McGee, Peter R. Mifflin, Sandy, for appellants
C. Bradshaw, Steven C. Bednar, Salt Lake City, for appellee
IHC Health Services, Inc.
J. Williams, Nathaneal J. Mitchell, Salt Lake City, for
appellees Cardon Healthcare Network, LLC and Cardon Outreach
Justice Himonas authored the opinion of the Court, in which
Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice
Pearce, and Judge Christiansen joined.
recused herself, Justice Petersen does not participate
herein; Court of Appeals Judge Michele M. Christiansen sat.
A child was struck by a car and seriously hurt. The owner of
the hospital at which the child received medical care sought
to secure payment for that care by asserting liens against
the child's interest in the tort claim against the driver
of the car. The child, who was Medicaid eligible, and his
mother brought a number of claims against the hospital owner
and its payments vendor, nearly all of which centered on
contentions that the liens violated Medicaid
law.After the liens had been released, the
district court granted summary judgment in favor of the
defendants. We affirm the grant based upon basic principles
of mootness and plaintiffs' inability to state a claim as
a matter of law.
There are very few material facts relevant to the causes of
action we address upon the merits in this appeal. S.S. was
hit by a car being driven by Gayla Stumpf. As a result of the
accident, S.S. was severely injured, necessitating extensive
medical treatment, which he received over the course of two
years at Primary Children's Hospital, an IHC
Staci Shaffer entered into a two-page, standard-form patient
agreement with IHC. Under the terms of that contract, Ms.
Shaffer agreed to pay IHC for the medically necessary and
appropriate health care services it provided to S.S.
IHC uses Cardon to help it collect from patients hurt in
accidents caused by third parties. In early 2014, Cardon
asserted a hospital lien on behalf of IHC against any
potential recovery going from Ms. Strumpf to S.S. Cardon
released that lien three months later. It then asserted a
second hospital lien in March 2015.
After Cardon had asserted and released the first hospital
lien and asserted the second hospital lien, plaintiffs
brought this lawsuit. In their complaint, plaintiffs asserted
eleven claims: (1) violation of the Utah False Claims Act,
(2) civil conspiracy, (3) conversion, (4) vicarious
liability, (5) willful refusal to release a lien, (6)
negligence, (7) intentional infliction of emotional distress,
(8) tortious interference with economic relations, (9) breach
of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (10)
wrongful lien, and (11) declaratory judgment of a void lien.
Five months after the complaint was filed, defendants
released the second hospital lien. And five months after
that, in October 2016, plaintiffs settled their claims
against Ms. Strumpf.
Defendants moved for summary judgment the following month.
Broadly speaking, defendants argued that the district court
should grant summary judgment because, first, the claims were
all mooted when they released the second hospital lien;
second, the claims all failed for independent legal reasons;
and third, the claims were all based upon an incorrect
interpretation of Medicaid law. The court granted the motion
by order dated March 14, 2017. In that order, the court
reasoned "that all of [p]laintiffs' claims are moot,
with the exception of" the intentional infliction of
emotional distress claim and the possible exception of the
tortious interference and good faith and fair dealing claims.