The Texas Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has transferred more than 100 cases filed in Hidalgo County against McAllen Medical Center and two of its lien recording agents to a single MDL pretrial court.
Each of the plaintiffs contends that the hospital and its agents have filed fraudulent hospital liens, knowing that the liens do not comply with Chapter 55 of the Texas Property Code. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that a hospital may not file a lien unless the patient was “admitted” to the hospital within 72 hours after an accident caused by another person’s negligence. Plaintiffs, however, were treated only in the emergency room on an outpatient basis and were never “admitted” to the hospital. Plaintiffs also assert that the hospital and its agents have fraudulently attempted to use a hospital lien to collect more than the lien statute allows. The statute permits a hospital to file a lien to collect only the “reasonable and regular” rate for inpatient services, which means the rate for services charged to similar patients receiving similar treatment at the hospital. But the hospital attempted to collect its full “chargemaster” rates from the plaintiffs, who were uninsured, even though most patients do not pay that rate because of insurance and governmental payor discounts and negotiated rates with the hospital.
Led by trial counsel J. Michael Moore of the Moore Law Firm and assisted by Smith Law Group’s Brandy Wingate Voss, plaintiffs sought to transfer their individually-filed suits to a pretrial MDL court. The hospital and its agents vigorously opposed the transfer. The Texas MDL panel granted the motion, finding that the cases were factually related, that a transfer to a pretrial MDL court would be convenient for the parties and the witnesses, and that a transfer would promote the efficient conduct of the litigation.
“This is probably the first case in which a group of plaintiffs sought a transfer to a pretrial MDL court, and large corporate defendants opposed the transfer. Our team is very pleased with the result, which we believe is correct,” Voss said.
In re Fraudulent Hospital Lien Litigation, No. 15-0360 (Tex. M.D.L. Panel Aug. 12, 2015) (opinion available here).