CHICAGO — A medical practice and a surgery center, which saw their liens in a Cook County man's slip-and-fall case reduced by more than half, are not entitled to another dime, a state appellate court ruled last week.
In its order, the Illinois First District Appellate Court three-justice panel ruled Sept. 6 that two health care companies who provided care to John Casterton, who sued after he allegedly fell and was injured at a Public Storage facility, did not prove that a lower court's findings "were against the manifest weight of the evidence."
"The trial court's reduction of healthcare services liens, on the basis that the amounts charged were unreasonable, is affirmed," the appellate court ruled in its 10-page order.
Illinois First District Appellate Court Judge Mary L. Mikva | kentlaw.iit.edu
Appellate Justice Mary L. Mikva wrote the order. Justices Daniel J. Pierce and Carl Anthony Walker concurred. The decision was issued as an unpublished order, which limits its use as precedent.
The appeal by Advanced Pain Care MD SC, and Fullerton Kimball Medical & Surgical Center, stemmed from a June 2018 settlement reached between Casterton and Public Storage Inc. and Maxx Industrial, according to the background portion of the order. Casterton had sued the two companies over injuries he allegedly suffered to his head, neck and lower back following a June 2010 slip and fall at a Public Storage facility.
Casterton received $85,000 in damages under the settlement, but the health care service providers who treated his injuries wanted more than $87,000.
Casterton, who argued the charges were "well in excess" of what should have been fairly and reasonably charged, sought protection under the state's Health Care Services Lien Act, which stipulates lienholders can receive 40 percent of what a plaintiff received in damages.
"Mr. Casterton requested that each lien be adjudicated to zero dollars 'in light of the demonstrated unreasonableness of the charges'," the order said. "Mr. Casterton said that he had been in a traffic accident just two weeks before his fall at the storage facility, and his treaters had failed 'to correlate [his] treatment to the injuries suffered from his slip and fall' at the Public Storage facility."
Advanced Pain Care and Fullerton Kimball Medical, two of a group of medical lienholders in the case, asked Cook County Circuit Court Judge Larry G. Axelrood for an evidentiary hearing last fall with an eye toward getting their liens paid.
Following the hearing, during which Axelrood found the lienholders' two treating physicians to be less than credible - including one witness Axelrood described as a "deplorable, almost despicable witness" - the judge declined to zero out the liens. He upheld a decision to reduce Advanced Pain Care's lien to a little more than $2,440, or about 20 percent of what that lienholder wanted, and Fullerton Kimball's to about $3,765, or 40 percent of its original value.
Axelrood acknowledged that the two lienholders who had treated Casterton should be compensated and they "should be grateful that they're getting something and not zeroed out based on the testimony that [the court] heard," the order said.
On appeal, the justices did not agree with the lienholders' argument that the trial court reduced their liens by a greater percentage than allowed by statute, according to the order.
"Mr. Casterton is correct, however, that the reductions the trial court made were not pursuant to the statutory formula at all, but in accordance with the court's initial determination of what constituted reasonable charges," the order said, while referring to a section of the Health Care Services Lien Act. "The act provides no limitation on how much a trial court may reduce a lien as part of this initial determination, before it applies the statutory formula."
According to Cook County court records, Casterton has been represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Kralovec, Jambois & Schwartz, of Chicago.
The lienholders have been represented by the firm of Rieck & Crotty, of Chicago.