A hospital and the collection law firm it uses have removed a class-action lawsuit filed against them to federal court in New Jersey, after they were accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act by including the plaintiff’s health insurance policy number on documents in a collection lawsuit that were filed against the plaintiff and for attempting to recover attorney’s fees that it would statutorily have been allowed to recover had it succeeded.
A copy of the complaint in the case of Lerner v. The Valley Hospital and Celentano, Stadtmauer & Walentowicz can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff incurred a debt owed to a hospital that was placed with the defendant for collection. The defendant filed a collection lawsuit against the plaintiff, seeking to recover the balance of $472.25. In its complaint, the law firm also said it was entitled to “interest, attorney’s fees, costs of suit and for such other and further relief as the court may deem to be equitable and just.” But, according to state law in New Jersey, the costs of suit include attorney’s fees. The defendant had “no basis in fact or law for” including a separate demand for attorney’s fees, according to the complaint.
The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment in the underlying collection lawsuit that included three exhibits, two of which contained the insurance policy number for the plaintiff’s health insurance policy. After being requested to do so, the defendants replaced those exhibits with redacted versions that did not disclose the policy number.
The plaintiff is seeking to include anyone who was sued by the defendants in state court in New Jersey on behalf of the hospital in question while also creating a separate class for anyone whose insurance policy number may have been exposed.