Circuit Court was a busy place during the third quarter, but not for the usual reasons.
About 300 more cases were filed in the nine divisions of the civil court compared to the second quarter, according to The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.
Much of the dramatic increase came from a jump in the number of hospital liens filed by the Regional Medical Center at Memphis under the name Shelby County Health Care Corp.
Getting away from form
Divorces are usually the leading category for filings in Circuit Court. That wasn’t the case in the third quarter.
Hospital liens accounted for 531 of the 2,057 Q3 cases filed in Circuit Court. There were 511 divorces with and without children followed by 288 auto accident claims.
By comparison, only 147 hospital liens were filed in Circuit Court in Q2 2009. And the liens didn’t even show up as a category in the filings from Q3 2008.
The number of cases filed in Chancery and Probate courts remained about the same as in Q2 2009 and Q3 2008.
In the three parts of Chancery Court, divorces with and without children were the top category in Q3, followed by adoptions and complaints for damages.
In Probate Court, wills took the top category with conservator appointments a distant second.
Attorneys for The MED began filing the suits against patients during the third quarter to garner a better flow of money into the county government-run institution.
The public hospital is facing a funding crisis that has prompted continuing talks with officials in Mississippi and Arkansas about payments for uninsured residents from both states who go to The MED in emergencies.
The liens began earlier this year and have resulted in countersuits in Circuit Court.
The MED is using a state law that allows it to perfect a hospital lien within 120 days after a patient is discharged from the hospital for “the amount claimed to be due for such hospital care and … persons, firms or corporations claimed by such ill or injured person … to be liable for damages arising from such illness or injuries.”
In a response to one of the countersuits, attorneys for The MED wrote that the institution has “put the world on notice of The MED’s claim for hospital expenses against third parties responsible for the treatment” of the plaintiffs in that particular action.
The plaintiffs in those cases reached settlements with insurance companies and other third parties before The MED filed its liens. Attorneys for The MED sought discovery to “determine whether the settlements addressed The MED’s hospital expenses, among other things.”
Meanwhile, city and county government attorneys continued preparations for a long-anticipated suit in U.S. District Court against a group of national mortgage lenders.
But the case in the making now lacks an outside counsel for the plaintiffs.
Memphis city and Shelby County governments had settled on the Montgomery, Ala., law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles PC. But the firm pulled out after a similar lawsuit it filed in Birmingham, Ala., was dismissed.
The Memphis case is expected to allege discriminatory lending practices toward minority communities that worsened the impact of home foreclosures at the start of the current economic recession. The Memphis lawsuit is modeled on a similar claim in Baltimore by local government leaders there.
Shelby County Attorney Brian Kuhn told The Daily News last week talks are under way with other law firm prospects.
“The suit will soon be filed with or without new outside counsel joining before or after the suit is filed,” he said....