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Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, LLC v. Burkhead

Supreme Court of Alaska

February 19, 2010

MAT-SU REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, LLC, Appellant,
v.
Brandi M. BURKHEAD and Meg J. Voss, Appellees. Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, LLC, Appellant,
v.
Meg J. Voss, Appellee.

Rehearing Denied March 26, 2010.

Page 1098

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.

OPINION

EASTAUGH, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

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

Page 1099

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

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

Page 1100

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 ...


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