Illinois Supreme Court Reverses Appellate Court – Asserts Liens Obtained by Hospitals Under Health Care Services Lien Act are Not Limited to Awards of Medical Expenses

In September 2016, we wrote about the Illinois Appellate Court decision in this case, Manago v. County of Cook, 2016 IL App (1st) 121365. In that case, the Illinois Appellate Court found that liens obtained by hospitals under the Hospitals’ Health Care Services Lien Act (770 ILCS 23/1 et seq.) (the “Lien Act”), are not limited to or conditioned upon a finding or allocation for medical expenses for injuries sustained by a minor.

In the underlying case, Manago was a minor and was injured while riding on the roof of an elevator owned by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). His next friend and mother, April Pritchett, brought this lawsuit against the CHA, H.J. Russell & Co. and A.N.B. Elevator Services Inc. The complaint sought damages for the child’s injuries and included an allegation pertaining to medical expenses. At the trial, the Manago plaintiff was awarded $200,000 in total although none of the recovery was for medical expenses. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion to strike, dismiss and extinguish the hospital’s lien.

On appeal by the County of Cook, the Appellate Court concluded that the lien was invalid for two reasons. First, the mother “did not assign her cause of action for medical expenses for her son even though, pursuant to the Family Expense Act, that action belonged solely to the minor’s parents.”

Second, under the Lien Act, “liens may attach only for recoveries for medical expenses, and here no medical expenses were awarded.”

This same case was appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court on the issue, on the construction of the Lien Act in light of the Family Expense Act. The Supreme Court recognized that the Lien Act was enacted to promote the health and safety of the community by providing medical care to the poor and reducing the financial burden on hospitals created by treating accident victims unable to pay for their own treatment. The Family Expense Act, however, codifies the common-law rule that requires parents to pay for expenses of their minor children.

Again, the plaintiff in this case maintained that because the judgment did not include an allocation for medical expenses, there could be no hospital lien. Cook County countered that the Appellate Court’s statutory construction violates the rules of statutory construction by “improperly adding condition and exceptions to the Lien Act’s clear and unambiguous terms.”

The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with Cook County and held that the hospital was entitled to a health care lien. The relevant language of the Lien Act states that a hospital has a lien “upon all claims and causes of action of the injured person” and the lien shall “attach to any verdict, judgment, award [or] settlement . . . by or on behalf of the injured person.” The Lien Act does not condition the availability of a lien on an award for medical expenses. There is nothing in the Lien Act which precludes a lien from attaching to a damage award recovered by or on behalf of an injured minor, or limits the lien source to sums earmarked for medical expenses.

Accordingly, the Illinois Supreme Court has now reversed the Illinois Appellate Court’s decision and remands the case for application of the principles set forth in the opinion.

Manago v. County of Cook, 2017 IL 121078.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury lawsuits, wrongful death cases, premises liability cases, pedestrian injury lawsuits, car accident cases, truck crashes and bicycle accidents for individuals, families and the loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Hickory Hills, Alsip, Crestwood, Oak Forest, Berwyn, Brookfield, Elmwood Park, Northlake, Chicago (Polish Village, Hermosa, Mont Clare, Galewood, Portage Park, Jefferson Park, Norwood Park, Mayfair, Irving Park, Logan Square, Stockyards, Chatham, Grand Crossing, Jackson Park), Melrose Park, Villa Park, Elk Grove Village, Schiller Park, Ill.

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