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Pivotal Summary Judgment Obtained Declaring Lee County Lien Statute 2000-439 Unconstitutional.

Valerie A. Dondero | August 29, 2014

Insurance carriers have been at war with Lee Memorial Health System for the past three years in cases where LMHS has been actively filing lawsuits against carriers for alleged lien impairment for issuing settlement drafts without making LMHS a payee on the check. In a recent showdown, Valerie Dondero, of the Miami office, took on LMHS and prevailed after a four-hour summary judgment hearing. Valerie persuaded the trial judge that the Lee County Lien Statute 2000-439 is unconstitutional, which successfully defeated the claims of LMHS. The main issue issue was the applicability of the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Shands Teaching Hosp. & Clinics, Inc. v. Mercury Insurance Co., 97 So. 3d 204 (Fla. 2012), which held a virtually identical lien law to be unconstitutional. LMHS attempted to distinguish the Supreme Court case from the local lien law because of a distinction that LMHS is a public hospital, whereas the hospital involved in the Supreme Court case was not. LMHS argued that it is a public hospital and its contracts for patient care are by default a public contract, and therefore these "public contracts" are not in violation of Article III, §11(a)(9), Fla. Const. Valerie responded that the Florida Supreme Court has rejected that reasoning and LMHS enters into a variety of public and private contracts. The trial judge agreed with Valerie’s arguments, granting summary judgment for the insurer in this case, and indicating that he will reverse his prior rulings to the contrary in other cases.

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