In the case of Lee Memorial Health System v. Progressive Select Insurance Company, the Florida Supreme Court held that Lee County’s hospital lien ordinance was unconstitutional as a “special law” improperly impairing private contracts.
The LMHS Lien Law And How It Overreaches
The LMHS Lien Law provides that:
Lee Memorial Health System shall be entitled to a lien for all reasonable charges for hospital, physician, or other health care services … upon the proceeds of all causes of action, suits, claims, counterclaims, and demands accruing to said persons or to their legal representatives, and upon all judgments, settlements, and settlement agreements … on account of injuries …
Further, the law goes on to say:
… No release or satisfaction of any cause of action, suit, claim, counterclaim, demand judgment, settlement, or settlement agreement shall be valid or effectual as against the lien of Lee Memorial health System unless the lienholder shall join therein or execute a release of its lien prior to the payment of any proceeds thereof.
Finally, the law says:
… Any acceptance of a release or satisfaction of any cause of action, suit, claim, counterclaim, demand, judgment, settlement, or settlement agreement in the absence of a release of satisfaction of the lien of Lee Memorial Health System shall prima facia constitute an impairment of such lien and the lienholder shall be entitled to a cause of action for damages against any and all persons, firms, or corporations giving or accepting such release or satisfaction or paying or accepting the proceeds from the same. …
Basically, you can’t settle a personal injury case in Lee County, Florida without paying the hospital and if you don’t pay the hospital, they can sue just about anyone to get their money.
Progressive argued that this is a violation of Article III, sec 11(a)(9) of the Florida Constitution as it is an unconstitutional impairment of the insurance contract between the insurer and insured.
Article III, sec 11(a)(9) states:
There shall be no special law or general law of local application pertaining to … creation, enforcement, extension or impairment of liens based on private contracts …
Need To Know That Law Was Held Unenforceable
In short order, the Florida Supreme Court held that Lee County’s lien law was enforceable. What will likely happen next is that Lee County will go back to the drawing board to pass a new hospital lien ordinance that might not unconstitutionally overreach. It is also unclear whether the hospital will continue to try to enforce the lien law on unsuspecting people.
Regardless, this case is an example of why you will need the help of a Florida personal injury attorney when you have liens against your personal injury settlement. Failure to know the law can be a costly mistake.
Hire A Personal Injury Attorney For Help With Your Case
Personal injury cases in Florida often involve liens or rights of subrogation that many plaintiffs are unaware of. Settling your case when another entity has a right to attach a lien and sue you for money that you received for your injuries. Talk to a Lakeland, Florida personal injury attorney about how to settle your case the right way. Call today to schedule your free consultation.