Illinois Appellate Court Denies Hospital its Lien Claim in Auto Crash Injury Case; Jayko v. Fraczek

Eleven-year-old A.J. was injured in an automobile crash and was taken for treatment to St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. The bills that were sent by the hospital to the boy’s parents featured the crest of Alexian Brothers Catholic order and, in large font, the name “Alexian Brothers.” Below that was smaller print, which showed the name “St. Alexius Medical Center.”
A lawsuit was brought by the boy’s family that settled the auto accident for $30,000. The hospital hired a law firm in Deerfield to notify the family attorney that it was asserting a hospital lien for $11,638.

The family attorney then moved the court under §30 of the Hospital Lien Act to adjudicate the hospital’s lien. Section 30 calls for the hospital to receive “written notice,” which the boy’s family attorney did by certified mail, return receipt requested.

However, at the hearing before the court, the hospital failed to appear. The judge reduced the hospital’s lien to zero, although the order that the court entered referred to “Alexian Brothers,” not “St. Alexius.”

Sixteen months later, St. Alexius attacked the order, claiming it was void because it received the notice by certified mail rather than by actual service. St. Alexius argued that it was denied its constitutional right of due process because it was not served with the motion. The hospital also argued that the order was void because it misnamed the hospital.

The Illinois Appellate Court, First District, however, disagreed with the hospital stating that (1) “Section 30 of the act provides for written notice of a petition to adjudicate a lien to be served by registered or certified mail or in person” and (2) the due process clause does not require personal service of summons, because lien-adjudication proceedings are in rem.

The appellate court, however, gave the hospital a very small victory in that it said that it needed a ruling by the trial judge as to whether or not reference to the hospital as “Alexian Brothers” was merely a scrivener’s error that can be corrected at any time by a nunc pro tunc order. A nunc pro tunc order is a Latin expression that means “now for then.” It’s generally used to fix an order that needed a clerical correction rather than a judicial correction from a prior order.

The appellate court here relied on another case, Zillinger v. Allied American Medical Insurance, 957 F.Supp.148 (N.D. 1997). In that federal case, a family and the insurer agreed to a settlement whose proceeds were subject to a lien by the father’s health insurer. That family filed a motion to adjudicate the lien, arguing that the father’s insurer was not entitled to recoup funds expended for treatment. The family simply mailed the purported lienholder a copy of the motion and a notice when the motion would be heard by the Circuit Court. It was argued in a case like this, that the order adjudicating the lien to zero was void because the Circuit Court never obtained personal jurisdiction by service on the insurer.

That court reached the same decision.

Finally, the Illinois Appellate Court found it necessary to send the case back to the trial judge only to enter a nunc pro tunc order referring to the hospital St. Alexius rather than Alexian Brothers.

Jayko v. Fraczek, No. 1-03-3665 (March 9, 2012).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accidents, trucking accidents and nursing home abuse cases for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including River Grove, Des Plaines, Prospect Heights, Arlington Heights, Highland Park, Chicago (Ukrainian Village), Chicago (Wicker Park), Worth and Palos Park, Illinois.

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