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Shelby County Health Care Corporation v. Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

December 21, 2018




         Pending is Defendant's Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company, Medford Farm Partnership, and Aaron Medford (“the Farm”) Motion for Summary Judgment on Cross-Claim (Doc. No. 102).[1] Defendant Barbara Ford, as Special Administratrix of the Estate of John Smiley, (“Ford”) and Shelby County Health Care Corporation d/b/a Regional Medical Center (“the Med”) filed Responses.[2] The Farm filed a Reply.[3] For the reasons set out below, the Farm's Motion is GRANTED as it pertains to the Cross-Claim and DENIED as to the other requests. Ford's Cross-Motion is DENIED.

         Also pending is Ford's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 121). The Med filed a response, and Ford replied.[4] F or the reasons set out below, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         John D. Smiley and Aaron Medford were involved in an automobile accident in Monroe County, Arkansas, on February 18, 2009. Shortly after the accident, Mr. Smiley was admitted to the Med, where he remained until his death on March 6, 2009. Based on the Tennessee Hospitals' Lien Act (“HLA”), the Med filed a statutory hospital lien in the Circuit Court of Tennessee for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Memphis for the unpaid balance owed on Smiley's hospital bill. The Med mailed copies of the lien to the attorneys for Smiley's estate.

         Barbara Ford was appointed as special administratrix for Smiley's estate by the Circuit Court of Monroe County, Arkansas, Probate Division to pursue claims resulting from Smiley's death. After negotiating with Medford's insurer, the Farm, Ford petitioned the probate court to authorize a settlement. The probate court noted that Ford had asserted a wrongful death claim against Medford and wanted to accept the Farm's offer to pay $700, 000 in exchange for a release of any and all claims. The probate court found that no medical liens had been filed against Smiley's estate in Monroe County and that the Med's hospital lien was void and unenforceable in Arkansas as the Med did not follow the requirements of the Arkansas Medical, Nursing, Hospital, and Ambulance Service Lien Act. None of the settlement proceeds went to the Med.

         The Med filed a lawsuit in this Court against the Farm and Ford claiming a lien impairment in violation of Tennessee law. The Eighth Circuit has found that Tennessee law controls this action for the impairment of a hospital lien.[5]

         II. STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact, so that the dispute may be decided on purely legal grounds.[6] The Supreme Court has established guidelines to assist trial courts in determining whether this standard has been met:

The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for a trial -- whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.[7]

         The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has cautioned that summary judgment is an extreme remedy that should be granted only when the movant has established a right to the judgment beyond controversy.[8] Nevertheless, summary judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing trial when no genuine issue of fact remains.[9] A court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.[10] The Eighth Circuit has also set out the burden of the parties in connection with a summary judgment motion:

[T]he burden on the party moving for summary judgment is only to demonstrate, i.e., “[to point] out to the District Court, ” that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact. It is enough for the movant to bring up the fact that the record does not contain such an issue and to identify that part of the record which bears out his assertion. Once this is done, his burden is discharged, and, if the record in fact bears out the claim that no genuine dispute exists on any material fact, it is then the respondent's burden to set forth affirmative evidence, specific facts, showing that there is a genuine dispute on that issue. If the respondent fails to carry that burden, summary judgment should be granted.[11]

         Only disputes over facts that may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.[12]


         A. Indemnity

         The Farm denies any liability to the Med, and asserts that the Settlement Agreement and Release created a contractual duty for Ford to defend and indemnify the Farm. It claims that Ford agreed, in writing, that she would defend, indemnify, and hold the Farm harmless for any and all claims. Ford agrees the language is clear, but conversely maintains that the agreement fails to include any language triggering a duty to defend, indemnify, or hold harmless. Thus, Ford claims that summary ...

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