California Court of Appeal Holds City of San Francisco Had Valid Lien on Victim’s Recovery in Lawsuit Following Car Accident

In a recent case, the California Court of Appeal addressed whether the City of San Francisco properly placed a lien on settlement proceeds for the recovery of medical care costs provided to an injured victim of an accident.  The City paid for the victim’s medical care when he was hit by a car, and the victim sued the driver of the car for damages.  The victim then argued that the City’s lien against his recovery was invalid because it was preempted by California law.

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Jagdishwar Chand suffered injuries after being struck by a car.  He was treated at San Francisco General Hospital and then brought a lawsuit against the driver of the car that hit him. He settled with the driver for $100,000 and then filed a notice of partial settlement. The City filed a medical reimbursement lien for $370,000 in Mr. Chand’s personal injury case. They sought recovery of the cost of medical care provided to him.

Mr. Chand moved to expunge the lien, but the trial court found the City had a valid lien according to section 124 of the San Francisco Health Code. This section authorizes the City to place a lien on a patient’s recovery from a third party tortfeasor.  Mr. Chand appealed.

Section 124 of the San Francisco Health Code provides the City with authority to place a lien on a patient’s recovery from a third party tortfeasor for the cost of providing medical care.  When an injured individual treated at the expense of the City files a personal injury lawsuit for damages for those injuries, the cost of that care is considered a lien in favor of the City.

Mr. Chand argued that the City’s lien is invalid because Section 124 conflicts with the Hospital Lien Act and Government Code section 23004.1.  The Hospital Lien Act provides for a hospital to recover as much of its lien as it can satisfy out of 50 percent of the patient’s recovery. This is not an exclusive remedy. Government Code section 23004.1 gives counties a right of direct action against those who have acted in ways that cause the county to expend public funds to treat injured individuals.  Thus, if the patient does not sue the tortfeasor, the county may do so.

The court stated that Mr. Chand bears the burden of proving preemption if he asserts state law preempts the City’s ordinance.  But the court stated that there is no conflict in this case because both state statutes provide a non-exclusive remedy for the public entities to obtain reimbursement for the costs of providing emergency care to patients. Providing altenative mechanisms does not make a contradiction. Mr. Chand did not identify, nor did the court discover, law or history indicating that the state law remedies are the exclusive ways for governments to secure reimbursement for their medical expenses.

The court affirmed the order of the lower court, finding that the City properly filed the lien according to section 124.

The car accident attorneys at Sharifi Firm can help you understand your legal rights so that you can pursue the compensation you deserve.  If you have been involved in a car accident, contact us today for a free consultation. We can be reached through this website or by calling (866) 422-7222.

More Blog Posts:

California Court Excludes Evidence of Third-Party Payment to Medical Providers for Lien in Car Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, December 1, 2015

California Court of Appeals Upholds Decision to Grant New Trial on Damages in Bus Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, June 26, 2015

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