AZ SUPREME: NON-HOSPITAL PROVIDER’S LIEN ON TORT RECOVERY WAIVED UNLESS RECORDED WITHIN 30 DAYS OF FIRST SERVICES

The Arizona Supreme Court held that that the term “within thirty days after the patient has received any services relating to the injuries . . .” found in ARS § 33-932(A), means that the lien is lost if it is not recorded “within thirty days after first providing services” (emphasis supplied). This reversed the Court of Appeals, which allowed the lien for services provided within thirty days prior to perfection. The Supreme Court found that the stricter requirement promoted the legislature’s goal of giving adequate notice to personal injury defendants and their insurers. The Court also noted that hospitals, which can perfect their liens within thirty days of discharge, are differently situated because their involvement ends at discharge, while non-hospital providers may provide ongoing care throughout the pendency of the tort claim. So in this case, the late filing non-hospital provider is out of luck.

 

Premier Physicians Group v Navarro (Aug. 30, 2016)

 

 

SALESPERSON CAN BE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR; BROKER OFF HOOK FOR CRASH

There’s a lot riding on the question of whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor: eligibility for benefits, tax status, workers’ compensation, and liability, to name a few. The Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One (Phoenix), took up the question of whether a real estate salesperson can be an independent contractor of his or her supervising broker.

A real estate salesperson was returning from a sales appointment when his vehicle crossed the center line and hit a truck. The widow of the truck driver sued the salesperson’s broker on the grounds that the broker, as the employer, was liable for the salesperson’s negligence. The broker contended that the salesperson was an independent contractor. The widow argued that the law requiring licensed salespersons to work under licensed brokers makes the salespersons employees.

The Superior Court and the Court of Appeals ruled that the salesperson was an independent contractor. The court said the law requires the broker to supervise the salesperson’s real estate activities, but does not create the kind of control that would make the broker responsible for the salesperson’s negligent driving.

The Court of Appeals also noted that the definition of “employee” for other purposes, such as workers’ compensation, might be different because of the special definitions found in various statutes.

Santorii v. Martinezrusso (Aug, 23, 2016)

Business owners should know that the Arizona Legislature recently created a “a declaration of independent business status” that proves independent contractor status if signed by the contractor. The statute lists various elements that must be included in the declaration. The declaration is not mandatory. Someone can be an independent contractor without it, but a valid declaration will help to cut off debate in many cases.

MSP NIGHTMARE FOR CONDO CARRIER

Medicare is governed by a notoriously complex statute.

-Hon. William Pryor, dissenting.

The tort plaintiff was injured on the condominium premises. She settled with the condo’s carrier, Western Heritage. She represented that there were no liens or subrogation claims. Humana, which operated her Medicare Part C (aka Advantage) plan, thought otherwise. Western tendered a settlement check which included Humana as a payee. The tort plaintiff asked the Florida state court for sanctions against Western for failing to pay the full settlement. A stipulated order was entered in the Florida court, directing that $19,155.41 be held in trust by the tort plaintiff’s lawyer pending resolution of the MSP claim.

Humana sued the tort plaintiff and her lawyer in federal court but after some procedural machinations voluntarily dismissed it.

The tort plaintiff obtained a declaratory judgment from the Florida state court that she owed Humana $3,685.03. This result was thrown out on appeal because only federal courts have jurisdiction over MSP disputes, and only after federal administrative remedies have been exhausted.

Humana then sued Western in federal court. The result: Western owes Humana double, or $38,310.82.

Among the points made by the majority of a divided panel of the 11th Circuit:

  • Medicare Part C Plans have MSP claims enforceable in federal court.
  • Putting the money in trust was not good enough.
  • Any dispute as to the amount of the MSP claim must be resolved in accordance with CMS administrative process.

Humana Medical Plan, Inc., v Western Heritage Insurance Company (USCOA 11th Cir., Aug. 8, 2016)