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Wolf v. Toolie

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

September 30, 2014

KIMBERLY WOLF, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BERNARD TOOLIE, Defendant, (Tacori Brooks and Dawanna Johnson, Plaintiffs; the County of Cook ex rel. John H. Stroger, Jr., Hospital of Cook County, Appellee). NORA LARMENA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JAMES CAMPBELL, Defendant, (The County of Cook ex rel. John H. Stroger, Jr., Hospital of Cook County, Appellant)

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 11 L 6267. Honorable Randye Kogan, Judge Presiding.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 11 L 008513. Honorable Vanessa Hopkins Judge Presiding.

SYLLABUS

In personal injury actions, attorney fees and litigation costs should be deducted from plaintiff's total recovery before calculating the amount to be distributed to health care services providers pursuant to the Health Care Services Lien Act.

For APPELLANT: Douglas W. Graham, of Chicago, IL.

For APPELLEE: Jeffrey M. Brown, Dinizulu Law Group, Chicago, IL.

For County of Cook: Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, Chicago (Daniel Gallagher, Jeffrey McCutchan, Kent S. Ray, and Lauren Klein, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel).

Richard R. King and Sherri DeVito, Chicago, for amicus curiae Illinois State Medical Society.

JUSTICE McBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Palmer and Justice Gordon concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

McBRIDE, JUSTICE.

Page 1155

[¶1] The present appeal involves two separate cases, both stemming from separate motor vehicle accidents in which plaintiffs suffered personal injuries. Plaintiffs received medical care at John H. Stroger, Jr., Hospital of Cook County (Stroger). The County of Cook (Cook County) filed liens against plaintiffs for unpaid medical bills on behalf of the hospital, pursuant to the Health Care Services Lien Act (Act) (770 ILCS 23/1 et seq. (West 2012)). Subsequently, each plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the other parties involved in the accidents and recovered a settlement. Each plaintiff then filed a motion to adjudicate her health care services liens, arguing that the attorney fees and litigation costs should be deducted from the total recovery before calculating the amount to be distributed to the health care services providers. The central question on appeal is whether attorney fees and litigation costs should be deducted from a plaintiff's total recovery prior to calculating the amount to be distributed to health care professionals and providers pursuant to the Act. The two circuit court judges decided this question differently: in case No. 1-13-2243, the circuit court did not deduct attorney fees and litigation costs from the plaintiff's total recovery before calculating the amount to be awarded to Stroger for its lien against the plaintiff; in case No. 1-13-2552, the circuit court did deduct attorney fees and litigation costs from the plaintiff's total recovery before calculating the amount to be awarded to Stroger for its lien against the plaintiff. Timely appeals were filed in both cases and this court subsequently allowed a motion to consolidate the two cases on appeal due to the identical legal issue presented.

[¶2] The Act provides that health care professionals and health care providers that render any service in the treatment, care, or maintenance of an injured person " shall have a lien upon all claims and causes of action of the injured person for the amount of the health care professional's

Page 1156

or health care provider's reasonable charges up to the date of payment of damages to the injured person." 770 ILCS 23/10(a) (West 2012). The total amount of liens under the Act is limited and " shall not exceed 40% of the verdict, judgment, award, settlement, or compromise secured by or on behalf of the injured person on his or her claim or right of action." Id. However, the Act also provides that " [t]he statutory limitations under this Section may be waived or otherwise reduced only by the lienholder." (Emphasis added). 770 ILCS 23/10(c) (West 2012).

[¶3] The Act further creates a structure to divide the liens between health care professionals and health care providers, dictating that if the total amount of liens under the Act meets or exceeds 40% of the " verdict, judgment, award, settlement, or compromise" then neither the liens of the health care professionals nor the liens of the health care providers shall exceed 20% of the " verdict, judgment, award, settlement, or compromise." 770 ILCS 23/10(c) (West 2012). No individual health care professional or health care provider may receive more than one-third of the " verdict, judgment, award, settlement, or compromise." Id. However, the Act also provides:

" [H]ealth care services liens shall be satisfied to the extent possible for all health care professionals and health care providers by reallocating the amount unused within the aggregate total limitation of 40% for all health care services liens under this Act; and provided further that the amounts of liens under paragraphs (1) and (2) are subject to the one-third limitation under this subsection." (Emphasis added). Id.

[¶4] The Act also provides that when the total amount of liens under the Act exceeds 40% of the " verdict, judgment, award, settlement, or compromise," attorney liens under the Attorneys Lien Act (770 ILCS 5/0.01 et seq. (West 2012)) " shall not exceed 30% of the verdict, judgment, award, settlement, or compromise." 770 ILCS 23/10(c) (West 2012).

[¶5] Similarly to the Act, the Attorneys Lien Act provides:

" Attorneys at law shall have a lien upon all claims, demands and causes of action *** for the amount of any fee which may have been agreed upon by and between such attorneys and their clients, or, in the absence of such agreement, for a reasonable fee, for the services of such suits, claims, demands or causes of action, plus costs and expenses." (Emphasis added.) 770 ILCS 5/1 (West 2012).

In conjunction with the Act, the Attorneys Lien Act further states:

" In the case of a claim, demand, or cause of action with respect to which the total amount of all liens under the Health Care Services Lien Act meets or exceeds 40% of the sum paid or due the injured person, the total amount of all liens under this [Attorneys Lien] Act shall not exceed 30% of the sum paid or due the injured person." Id.

[¶6] The procedural facts from the circuit courts' decisions disclose the following. Kimberly Wolf, plaintiff in case No. 1-13-2243, was a passenger in an automobile driven by Bernard Toolie that was involved in a one-vehicle accident on March 21, 2010.[1] She received outpatient treatment for her injuries at Stroger and incurred medical bills totaling ...


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