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In Re Estate of Enloe

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 26, 1982.

IN RE ESTATE OF SHANNON ENLOE, A MINOR. — (ST. JOHN'S HOSPITAL, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,

v.

SHANNON ENLOE, BY WARREN ENLOE, GUARDIAN OF THE PERSON OF SHANNON ENLOE, ET AL., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.)



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Menard County; the Hon. Lyle E. Lipe, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Hospital lien allowed below.

We affirm, as modified.

The minor, Shannon Enloe, appeals from the finding of the trial court that the hospital had a valid and enforceable lien. The lien was filed under the authority of section 1 of "An Act providing for a lien for nonprofit hospitals * * *" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 82, par. 97) (Hospital Liens Statute) which provides for hospital liens upon claims of injured persons treated by such hospital. Shannon was under two years old during the periods of her treatment.

It is urged that (1) there was no valid underlying contract between the infant and the hospital; (2) the parents are solely liable for medical bills of an infant under section 15 of "An Act to revise the law in relation to husband and wife" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 40, par. 1015) (Family Expenses Statute); and (3) there was a failure to show strict compliance with the statutory procedural prerequisites for a valid lien. It is also argued (4) that, even if there is liability under the lien, the amount of the award should be reduced.

We affirm the finding of liability and modify the finding as to the amount.

Shannon Enloe was born on August 12, 1979. Eight days later, she was involved in a vehicle accident resulting in her hospitalization at St. John's Hospital in Springfield. On June 1, 1981, a petition was filed by Warren Enloe as the guardian of Shannon Enloe, alleging that the child had been injured when the pickup truck in which she was a passenger overturned and that the pickup truck was owned by Donald R. Winterbauer and driven by Cherrill Battaglia. The petition requested the court to approve a settlement of respondent's claim against Winterbauer. The petition also alleged that Shannon had been injured in the accident and hospitalized for treatment at St. John's. St. John's filed a lien for the amount of hospital charges with the law firm of Knuppel, Grosboll, Becker and Tice, as attorneys for Shannon. The petition requested the court to determine whether St. John's lien was valid and enforceable. The court approved the settlement but stated it had no authority to pass on the validity of the lien.

Through matters not entirely clear from the record, St. John's Hospital apparently became the petitioner of record and subsequently filed a motion to reconsider and vacate and to enforce the lien. A hearing was held on this motion on November 3, 1981. The court entered an order on February 2, 1982, finding that the lien should be sustained and was adjudged to be in the sum of $11,627.91.

I

• 1 We do not deem it necessary to respond to the various arguments concerning the existence of a valid underlying contract between the infant and the hospital since we conclude that the validity of a lien under the Hospital Liens Statute is not dependent upon common law contract theories. Section 1 of the statute provides:

"Every hospital organized for nonprofit, or hospital maintained and operated entirely by a county, rendering service in the treatment, care and maintenance, of such injured person shall have a lien upon all such claims and causes of action for the amount of its reasonable charges at ward rates in such hospital organized for nonprofit, or hospital maintained and operated entirely by a county up to the date of payment of such damages." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 82, par. 97.)

General language can be found that no lien attaches without an underlying debt. (See 51 Am.Jur.2d Liens sec. 36 (1970).) However, we interpret the clear and mandatory language of the statute as creating such debts and liability of the injured person secured by lien, regardless of any such remedy at common law.

II

Minor's second argument is that parents are solely liable for the medical expenses of their minor children under the Family Expenses Statute, and, therefore, the infant cannot be held liable under the Hospital Liens ...


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