Pain Management v. Preese (CA1 4/19/12)

One reason for publishing is to bring attention to an overlooked principle of law. Sometimes that’s a way of saying that somebody made a fairly basic mistake.

Preese was in a car accident. She sued the tortfeasor and won at trial. Pain Management had treated her injuries and filed a lien which, for reasons not explained, it later released. But it hadn’t been paid and sued for the balance. She moved for summary judgment based on the release; the trial court granted it. Pain Management appeals.

The Court of Appeals reverses. By statute the lien is against a judgment or settlement; its effect is to allow a provider to claim a piece of those things. It has nothing to do with the provider’s rights directly against the patient.

The court then helpfully mentions in a footnote that Preese’s argument on appeal was that the claim was barred not by the mere fact of the release but by its language – the release stated that the debt had been compromised or paid. But various earlier cases have that this sort of language in a lien release doesn’t bar a claim that hasn’t actually been compromised or paid.

Having decided the case, the opinion then spends an extra page or so listing all the factual issues that must now be addressed below. This we would normally criticize as surplusage but the court may think that a trial judge who could have granted this summary judgment needs all the help he can get. Its hard to criticize a CA1 opinion that’s only seven pages long (though it does manage to squeeze in two footnotes).

(link to opinion)