Rehearing Denied March 26, 2010.
Peter J. Aschenbrenner, Aschenbrenner Law Offices, Inc., Fairbanks, for Appellant.
Frank J. Schlehofer, Azar & Schlehofer, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellee Brandi M. Burkhead.
Kimberlee A. Colbo, Hughes Pfiffner Gorski Seedorf & Odsen, LLC, for Appellee Meg J. Voss.
Before: CARPENETI, Chief Justice, EASTAUGH, FABE, WINFREE, and CHRISTEN, Justices.
These two appeals, consolidated for decision, raise common questions about an attempt by Mat-Su Regional Medical Center (Mat-Su) to assert a direct claim against a motor vehicle driver who allegedly injured Brandi Burkhead, to whom Mat-Su then provided medical services. At Mat-Su's request, Burkhead assigned to Mat-Su all her rights and claims against Meg Voss, the alleged tortfeasor. In S-13010 we consider
whether it was error to deny Mat-Su's motion to intervene in Burkhead's personal injury lawsuit against Voss. And in S-13326 we consider whether Mat-Su may bring a direct action, based on Burkhead's assignment of her personal injury claim, against Voss. We conclude that it may not, and that Mat-Su's only remedy here is provided by the medical lien statute, AS 34.35.475. We therefore affirm Superior Court Judge Vanessa White's order denying Mat-Su's motion to intervene in Burkhead's personal injury lawsuit against Voss. We likewise affirm Superior Court Judge Kari Kristiansen's judgment dismissing Mat-Su's direct personal injury claim against Voss.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
A. The Accident
Brandi Burkhead was injured in a vehicular collision near Palmer in July 2007. Burkhead was admitted to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, where she received emergency and other medical services. Mat-Su alleges that the services had a value of $301,863.59.
During her treatment at Mat-Su, Burkhead allegedly signed two " Consent: Authorization, Assignment, and Acknowledgment" forms in which she ostensibly assigned to Mat-Su " all rights to or claims for payment against third parties" for the reasonable value of medical services rendered. Mat-Su also recorded a health care lien against Burkhead for $301,863.59 under AS 34.35.450-.482.
B. Mat-Su's Motion To Intervene in Burkhead's Suit Against Voss
In August 2007 Burkhead began a personal injury lawsuit against Meg Voss, the driver of the other vehicle involved in the collision.
In November of that year Mat-Su moved to intervene in Burkhead's lawsuit against Voss and to obtain co-plaintiff status. Mat-Su claimed its status as assignee, not as a lienor, was the " sole legal basis" for intervening. Mat-Su argued that Burkhead's assignment to Mat-Su of her right to recover medical expenses " reshaped real party in interest status of her creditor ... for the purpose of prosecuting a claim for recovery of those expenses as damages." Mat-Su contended that it could intervene both permissively and as a matter of right.
Both Burkhead and Voss objected to Mat-Su's motion to intervene. Superior Court Judge Vanessa White denied Mat-Su's motion in January 2008.
C. Mat-Su's Direct Action Against Voss
In December 2007 Mat-Su brought a separate lawsuit against Voss to recover the reasonable value of the medical services Mat-Su provided to Burkhead. Voss moved for summary judgment, arguing in part that Alaska's lien statute, AS 34.35.475, provided Mat-Su's exclusive remedy against Voss. Voss also contended that the alleged assignment was unenforceable as a matter of law because Burkhead was incompetent and under duress when she agreed to the assignment.
Mat-Su moved for an Alaska Civil Rule 56(f) continuance that would have allowed Mat-Su an extra sixty days to file a complete opposition to Voss's summary judgment motion. Mat-Su argued that it needed the additional time " to conduct depositions and further discovery to develop its position that the Consent: Assignment forms are valid and enforceable against Ms. Voss."
Voss opposed Mat-Su's continuance motion, arguing that determining the validity of
the assignments was " utterly irrelevant to the primary issue: whether, as a matter of law, the lien enforcement procedure is Mat-Su's exclusive remedy." Mat-Su replied that the validity of the assignment was relevant because Voss had claimed in ...