Sunday, June 7, 2015

Memorial Hermann seeks court-ordered deposition of local personal injury attorney over nonpayment of hospital liens resulting from treatment of accident victims

Memorial Hermann Health System does not just sue uninsured patients, as detailed in last week's Houston Press cover story written by Dianna Wray, it also goes after lawyers who represent accident victims treated in its hospitals; in search of its cut of personal injury settlement proceeds.

On Friday, June 5, 2015, MHHS brought legal action against Houston attorney Max F. Stovall in Harris County District Court to obtain information on a list of clients whom he allegedly represented in connection with car wrecks. Stovall's attorney profile page on the State Bar of Texas web site indicates that he is a member in good standing. He lists himself as a personal injury attorney. A search of Harris County Court records identifies him as attorney of record in 87 cases in district courts, but none of them recent. In the county civil courts at law Max Franklin Stovall has 132 to his name, with the last one filed in 2009. 

MHHS's petition, which was assigned to the 189th District Court, is based on Rule 202 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, which allows a potential litigant to invoke the power of a court to order deposition of witnesses and production of documents in order to investigate facts for a possible lawsuit to be filed later. Such a proceeding is a vehicle to conduct what is otherwise called "discovery" without actually filing a lawsuit that seeks damages. It is also used to find out the identity of a party or parties that may be liable on a claim, but whose identity is not known or easily determined, -- in this case insurance carriers that may have made disbursements to settle Stovall's clients' claims, from which the hospital system says it was not paid its fair share. MHHS asserts statutory hospital liens for treatment it had provided and not been paid for (or not been paid for in full) ranging from a low of $219.72 to a high of $101,973.10 per accident victim. It names them in the pleading. MHHS says it requested the information on the status of these individuals' claims from Stovall to no avail. It now seeks to compel the information by court-ordered deposition and production of documents ("duces tecum").
Bringing a Rule 202 proceeding also allows the hospital  system to avoid directly accusing Stovall of any wrongdoing in claims settlement and disbursement, while still giving it a powerful tool to investigate Stovall's representation of claimants, assuming the judge approves its request at the required hearing.

The ten-page petition, titled "MEMORIAL HERMANN HEALTH SYSTEM'S VERIFIED PETITION TO TAKE DEPOSITION BEFORE SUIT" was filed by Sarah K. Payne, an attorney with the law firm of Sullins, Johnston, Rohrbach & Magers. This is the same lawfirm that sues uninsured patients who received treatment at Memorial Hermann hospital facilities over unpaid hospital bills, as recently reported - with in-depth case studies telling the stories of affected individuals - by the Houston Press.


TRCP 202 Petition to Investigate Claims and Perpetuate Testimony

Tex. R. Civ. P. 202 (providing for presuit depositions)

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