Judge Denies MTD in Case Over Healthcare Provider’s Billing Practices

A healthcare provider in Ohio has had its motion to dismiss a class-action suit alleging its billing practices violated state law denied, after arguing that the law exempts transactions between physicians and their patients.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Amanda van Brakle v. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff had radiology imaging services performed at one of the defendant’s facilities in 2018. The defendant did not provide an estimate nor was she told she was entitled to one, according to the complaint. The plaintiff paid $25 toward the cost of the service and then made more partial payments totaling $288. The defendant never provided a receipt for any of the payments, and, in some cases, applied the payments to balances that were owed for other services. The defendant then placed the debt with a collection agency.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act by failing to provide receipts and failing to provide an estimate or a notification that an estimate was available. The plaintiff is also seeking attorney’s fees because the defendant was on notice by the state Attorney General’s office that its practices were unfair or deceptive.

The defendant made five arguments why its motion to dismiss should be granted, largely relying on the basis that the transaction did not meet the law’s definition of a “consumer transaction.”

Unfortunately, the defendant is “a corporate entity” and not a human being, which is required to meet the definition of a “physician” under the law to have it exempted, noted Judge John O’Donnell of the Court of Common Pleas in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

The defendant also attempted to argue that it could not provide estimates or receipts because the ultimate cost is “contingent upon which services are ultimately provided,” but Judge O’Donnell noted that this was “the very definition of a routine test and there is nothing about it that prevented the Cleveland Clinic from knowing its approximate cost in advance” and providing the plaintiff with an estimate based on that anticipated cost.

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