Medical Liens – Non-Hospital Medical Providers Gain Some Ground in the War on Liens
Personal injury attorney Brian T. Allen discusses the recent Arizona Court of Appeals decision in Premier Physicians Group v. Navarro (Ariz. App. 2015).
Arizona law allows non-hospital medical care providers to claim a lien against an injured person’s personal injury settlement as long as the lien is recorded (filed with the county recorder) “before or within thirty days after the patient has received any service related to the injuries.” A.R.S. §33-932. Traditionally, this statute has been widely interpreted by personal injury practitioners to mean that the lien had to be recorded within 30 days of the first date of treatment. Unfortunately, the Arizona Court of Appeals recently went against the plain meaning and legislative intent of the statute and held that this provision “allows a non-hospital health care provider to perfect a lien retroactively for any services received by the provider’s patient within the 30 days preceding the provider’s recording of the lien.” In arriving at this conclusion, the Court ignored the well-documented legislative history of A.R.S. §33-932, which clearly suggests that that the use of the words “any service” by the legislature was intended to be interpreted as the first date of service, not any date of service in a series of treatments over the course of weeks, months, or even years. Under the previously well-established understanding of the recording statute, parties (plaintiffs and defendants) in personal cases, as well as their insurance companies, could reasonably rely on the fact that if a non-hospital medical provider had not recorded a lien within 30 days of the first date of service, no enforceable liens existed. This certainty allowed parties to settle cases with confidence that no unknown liens would arise after settlement. With this new interpretation, the Court of Appeals has, in essence, created a moving target for the start of the 30 day recording period, thereby creating uncertainty and making it more difficult to settle injury claims. In fact, in some cases the Court’s interpretation of this statute will allow a valid lien to be recorded after the claim has already been settled and funds disbursed to the claimant. Certainly, this was not the legislature’s intent. Whether the Supreme Court will review this opinion remains to be seen.
If you or someone you know has a question about health care provider liens, call attorney Brian Allen at 480.461.5335 or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation to discuss your rights and options.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Medical Liens or any other personal injury, please feel free to contact Brian T. Allen at 480.461.5335, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.