Problems have arisen in recent years about the costs of medical assistance, the ability of patients to freely assent to those costs, and the outsized nature of the costs themselves. The complaint for this class action alleges that Lifeguard Ambulance Service, LLC attempted to recover transportation costs from a patient that she had never agreed to.
The class for this action is all individuals who have been charged by Lifeguard Ambulance Service, LLC for medical transport from a location within the US without an express contract, written or oral, or an implied-in-fact contract prior to transport, to pay specific mileage and other amounts charged.
The complaint begins by asserting that “first responders or other emergency personnel determine whether a patient needs emergency transport to the hospital. The transportation is arranged by parties other than the patients themselves and the patients are then transported.”
Thus, the complaint claims, “[t]here is no express contract, written or oral, for the payment of the prices charged for the ambulance transportation” between the patient and the ambulance company. Because of the medical condition of the patient as well, the patient cannot “provide informed consent to pay for the ambulance transportation services” ordered and used.
In this case, Heather Loper was a patient at Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, Alabama. She was later transported by ambulance to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. According to the complaint, when Loper asked about the charges, Lifeguard told her not to worry because her insurance would cover the entire cost.
The invoice for the company’s services, however, came to $8,166.71, including a charge of over $16 per mile. The invoice was the first time Loper learned what the company charged for its services.
Loper was insured by BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama. That company paid Lifeguard only $3,880.96 for its services. After that, Lifeguard sent Loper a “Final Notice” to collect the balance of $4,276.15 from her. When she did not pay immediately, Lifeguard placed the debt with a debt collection agency, United Collection Service, which is attempting to collect the debt. The complaint raises the issue of the debt now being reported to credit agencies and standing against her as bad debt.
It is difficult to see, however, how a patient in poor enough condition to require transportation by ambulance could negotiate charges on a free and valid basis for ambulance service (or for that matter, hospital or medical care).
The complaint asks for declaratory judgment that Lifeguard should stop attempting to charge patients without an express agreement and stop trying to collect on such bills. It also claims fraudulent suppression and negligent misrepresentation.