Premises liability plaintiff receives $20K reduction in Department of Public Welfare medical lien

By Nicholas Malfitano | Aug 11, 2016

PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas judge has elected to grant a petition reducing a state-based medical lien in excess of $20,000, which was placed on a plaintiff in a Philadelphia sidewalk fall lawsuit.

John F. Hanahan filed a motion to vacate on April 25, in order to eliminate or reduce a medical lien from the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) down to $21,354.25. At the time of his accident, plaintiff Robert Freeman had health coverage with Keystone Mercy, provided through the DPW.

On their request, Hanahan forwarded a letter to the DPW on April 2, 2015 advising them of Freeman’s injuries. The DPW replied on July 27, 2015, with notice of a medical lien against Freeman in the amount of $40,822.89.

Hanahan said counsel reviewed this DPW reply letter, and found many items contained which were unrelated to the subject action. Hanahan alleged the DPW ignored a number of communication attempts from December 2015 to March 2016 on this issue and eliminating/reducing the medical lien, so plaintiff counsel now petitions the Court to do either one; eliminate the medical lien entirely or reduce it down to $21,354.25.

Judge Lisa M. Rau scheduled a proceeding in Court chambers at Philadelphia City Hall for Aug. 4, in order to hear evidence connected to the DPW medical lien. Further, Rau ordered Freeman, his counsel team and DPW agent/third-party liability investigator Elizabeth James to attend this hearing.

Rau stipulated that a failure on the part of James or any DPW representative to attend may result in the reduction or complete waiver of the medical lien or monetary sanctions upon Freeman. Finally, Rau directed Freeman’s counsel to notify the Court if the medical lien dispute is resolved before Aug. 4, in order to thus cancel the hearing if need be.

Being that no DPW representative appeared at the Aug. 4 hearing, Rau chose to grant Hanahan’s motion.

“This court finds based on the credible and uncontested evidence presented at the Aug. 4, 2016 hearing that the $40,822.89 lien amount submitted by DPW improperly included medical costs unrelated to the injuries suffered from the accident described in the complaint,” Rau said. “Therefore, the lien is reduced by $19,468.64, the amount related to medical issues other than those involving the accident described in the complaint.”

This was not the only lien reduction Rau made in the subject action.

“This court also finds that plaintiff’s counsel expended unnecessary attorney time and filing fees solely due to DPW’s failure to respond verbally or in writing to plaintiff’s counsel’s request to address these unrelated medical costs in the lien,” Rau added. “Therefore, this court orders that the lien is further reduced by $1,307.68 to compensate plaintiff’s counsel as follows: $1,250 for five hours of attorney time, an amount this court finds was reasonable and necessary due to DPW’s failure to respond, and $57.68 in filing fees.”

Rau further stipulated the submitted lien was therefore reduced by $20,776.32, and the accurate lien amount related to the injuries alleged in the complaint is $20,046.57. Additionally, Rau ordered the DPW’s refusal to comply with the court’s repeated orders to attend hearings in this matter served as a waiver to any challenge it has to the lien’s reduction.

“Plaintiff’s counsel is directed to serve a copy of this order on DPW by certified and first class mail, and file documentation with the court that he has done so,” Rau said.

On Sept. 9, 2012, a defective condition allegedly existed on the sidewalk in the 5500 block of Chestnut Avenue, and Freeman says he was caused to fall due to both it and the defendants’ failure to inspect, repair or properly maintain the sidewalk. Per the lawsuit, Freeman claimed to suffer neck, back, hip, foot and ankle injuries.

The plaintiff is seeking damages, jointly and severally, from defendants Shao Xiang Chai and the City of Philadelphia for a sum in excess of arbitration limits, in this case.

The plaintiff is represented by Jeffrey M. Rosenbaum and Hanahan of Rosenbaum & Associates, both in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by Sheldon Kivell of the City of Philadelphia’s Law Department and Eric Spero, also both in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 140604146

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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