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Shelby County Health Care Corp. v. Teague

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

June 18, 2014

SHELBY COUNTY HEALTH CARE CORPORATION d/b/a REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, APPELLANT
v.
JESSICA TEAGUE, APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE POINSETT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CV-2006-169. HONORABLE RANDY PHILHOURS, JUDGE.

Lauck Law Firm, P.A., by: Scott G. Lauck and Chester H. Lauck, III, for appellant.

Andrea Brock, P.A., by: Andrea Brock, for appellee.

BILL H. WALMSLEY, Judge. HARRISON and WYNNE, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 75

BILL H. WALMSLEY, Judge

Shelby County Health Care Corporation d/b/a Regional Medical Center (" the Med" ) appeals from an order for default judgment entered on June 6, 2013, and the denial of its motion to set aside the default judgment. Because the trial court prematurely granted the default judgment, we reverse and remand this case for further proceedings.

On April 21, 2006, Jessica Teague, a resident of Arkansas, was involved in an automobile accident in Arkansas. She was transported to the Med in Memphis, Tennessee, where she remained hospitalized until May 3, 2006. Following Teague's release, the Med perfected a hospital lien in the amount of $192,645.33, which represented the total cost of her care. Teague, however, was billed for only $676.92.

Teague entered into a settlement with the insurance company of the third-party tortfeasor in which she received $125,000. The Med claimed entitlement to one-third of the proceeds of the settlement pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-22-101(a) and (b), which provides that a hospital lien applies to all reasonable and necessary charges but limits the lien to no more than one-third of any settlement or judgment against a third-party tortfeasor.

On August 29, 2006, Teague filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Arkansas asking the trial court to find that the maximum lien that the Med could collect was for the amount it billed her--$676.92. On September 11, 2006, Gary McCullough, an attorney not licensed to practice law in Arkansas, filed a special appearance and motion to dismiss on behalf of the Med challenging personal jurisdiction. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The Med, by and through its Tennessee attorney, answered Teague's amended petition on December 18, 2006.

Aside from a deposition taken in March 2007, there was no activity in this case for several years. On September 25, 2012, the trial court notified counsel for the parties that, unless it received a response within thirty days, the case would be dismissed pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) because it had been inactive for more than one year. Counsel for Teague requested a trial.

This matter was set for trial on December 3, 2012. At the hearing, counsel for Teague made an oral motion to declare the Med's pleadings a nullity because they had not been signed by an attorney licensed to practice law in Arkansas. The trial court took the motion under advisement and allowed the parties to submit posttrial briefs on the issue. In Teague's posttrial brief, she again asked the court to declare the pleadings filed by Gary McCullough a nullity, and she also requested that the trial court enter a default judgment on her behalf. The Med opposed this action in its posttrial brief.

Page 76

On June 6, 2013, the trial court declared the pleadings signed by Tennessee counsel a nullity and entered an order for default judgment. On June 13, 2013, local counsel for the Med filed a motion to set aside the default judgment. Thirty days passed, and the motion was ...


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