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Shelby County Health Care Corp. v. Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co.

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

January 3, 2019

SHELBY COUNTY HEALTH CARE CORPORATION d/b/a REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER PLAINTIFF
v.
SOUTHERN FARM BUREAU CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          BILLY ROY WILSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending is Defendant's Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company, Medford Farm Partnership, and Aaron Medford (“the Farm”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 130).[1] Also pending is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 133). Responses have been filed to both motions.[2] For the reasons set out below, the Farm's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 130) is DENIED. The Med's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 133) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         For the background, please see the order entered on December 21, 2018.[3]

         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.[4] 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.[5]

         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.[6] Nevertheless, summary judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing trial when no genuine issue of fact remains.[7] A court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.[8]

         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.[9]

         Only disputes over facts that may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.[10]

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Farm argues: (1) it had no intent to impair the lien; (2) Plaintiff failed to mitigate its damages; (3) Plaintiff's claims are barred under the doctrine of laches; and (4) Plaintiff has waived any alleged right to relief under its lien impairment.

         The Med asserts: (1) Defendants impaired the hospital lien by the plain terms of the statute; (2) impairment of the hospital lien creates a liability on Defendants for one-third of the settlement amount plus prejudgment interest.

         A. Intent

         The Farm claims that the Eighth Circuit's most recent opinion describes the Med's lien impairment action as “a wrong analogous to the common-law tort of conversion, ”[11] and intentional tort in Tennessee.[12] It asserts that since the Eighth Circuit found the claim of lien impairment to be analogous with conversion, the Med must prove intent to impair the lien. In response, the Med claims that there is no mens rea requirement in the Tennessee HLA. The Tennessee HLA provides that “any acceptance of a release or satisfaction of any such cause of action . . . claim . . . demand or judgment and any settlement of any of the foregoing in the absence of a release or satisfaction of the lien [] shall prima facie constitute an impairment of such lien.”[13] It is ...


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