Legal question re out of state debt

I owe a hospital in another state about $3k.

They admitted me and did some tests based in part on an incorrect family medical history. I gave them the info and later when I went over it with my family doctor I discovered that they got it wrong.

I complained and they researched it and (surprise, surprise) claim that they would have done the same thing even if they had gotten it right.

I paid them for the emergency room treatment and said I was willing to discuss other charges that may have been appropriate. Did so in a letter. They keep sending bills… I keep sending copies of the same letter that they have never responded to.

So … I’m fortunate to be able to afford to pay the bill if it could cause me more trouble than it is worth to fight it further, At the same time, I don’t need to worry about what it might do to my credit score.

I’d be very interested to hear what those who know have to say about where this whole thing could be headed legal-wise.


I’ll putting aside questions of what it could do to your credit report. Also, I am not your lawyer (I don’t even know what the states involved are), and this is a general explanation of the state of the law, not your particular circumstances.

If you incur a debt in a state where you don’t reside, the creditor can sue you for the debt, most likely in the state where you incurred the debt. You can then either defend the suit in that state, or default. In either event, the creditor can get a judgment against you in their state. They can use the state enforcement methods to go after any property you have in that state.

In addition to going after any property in the state where the judgment was obtained, they can also most likely relatively simply register the judgment in the state where you live. Unless you can demonstrate that the other state court didn’t have proper jurisdiction over you (usually very hard to do), your state court will readily accept a judgment from another state (and indeed they have to under the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution), and issue an in-state judgment.

If it gets this far, the creditor can use all of your state’s judgment enforcement techniques against you, such as garnishment, liens, restraining of bank accounts, foreclosure against assets, etc.

How does the state where the hospital is located have personal jurisdiction over the OP?

(I’m a lawyer but I do tax, so I’ve only worked with personal jurisdiction issues in law school and on the bar, so I’d appreciate some enlightenment.)

because he was in that state at the time, and made the contract with the hospital in that state. shouldn’t that be enough for the courts of that state to assume jurisdiction?

Unless the admission and billing paperwork specify a specific court or jurisdiction, the hospital can sue in any court that has jurisdiction over the OP. This could be the court where the hospital is located or the hospital can hire an attorney in the OP’s jurisdiction to represent them in court. If sued out of state and if they are successful, the hospital would have to have the judgment domesticated in the OP’s home state before they could start the collection process. The most likely scenario would be the hospital hiring at attorney in the OP’s home state.

Since the OP has been answered, I just want to say, if you’re comfortable enough to be able to afford the bill and have no credit worries, and you believe you are right, then I hope you let them sue you. The worst case scenario is not as bad as the best case scenario is good, IMO. Plus, if they screwed you, and do end up getting your money, at least they had to work for it.

More than enough. Basic personal jurisdiction law, learned the first week of Civil Procedure class.

What about court costs? Might I ultimately be responsible for their court costs?

Anybody see any way for me to take advantage of the fact that they are ignoring my correspondance and just sending bills over and over again?

The advice given by Bootis is bad advice. Yes, you could be stuck with court costs and attorney fees too. On a $3000 bill, this could easily double that amount. As far as your letters, they have no legal obligation to respond to them. In the eyes of the billing department, the money owed is not negotiable. Do you try to negotiate the prices of other items and services you buy or use? Of course not. The hospital does not consider the prices negotiable either. You have two options available. First would be to wait till you are sued then argue your point why you don’t think you should have to pay the full amount for the services provided. The second would be to pay the bill then sue the hospital making the same argument.

Well, that’s what I thought from a Canadian perspective, but who knows what you Muricans do with your wild and crazy laws. :stuck_out_tongue:

Ok. And thanks for the dig.

I was apparently misremembering–I thought the defendant had to have some contact with the forum state when the suit is filed, not just when the action that gave rise to the suit occurred.

I appreciate the responses so I’m not arguing to be argumentative.

Thought that Big Hospital System vs. the little guy might have some kind of impact.

Additionally, if I took my care in to be serviced and they performed an unneccesary service based on a screwup on their part… I’d definately argue about the bill.

Cite to me a statute for your state, as well as for the state in question here, in which court costs and attorney’s fees can be awarded as part of the damages in a suit on contract?

In addition to which, I know from personal experience that a hospital WILL negotiate your payment of their charges. They won’t do it, of course, just because you ask; you have to offer them a valid reason to do so, such as inability to pay the full amount, or a valid complaint about the quality of care received. After all, they aren’t any more eager to have an expense for attorneys than you are, and they DO have to pay their attorneys to work for them. :wink:

There is often a clause in the contract itself that provides for the costs of collection, including attorney fees and court costs.

You may be confusing the minimum contacts regime established by *International Shoe * with tag jurisdiction, which was validated in Burnham v. Superior Court. *Burnham * recognized the proposition that presence in the state at the time of service (not necessarily time of filing) is sufficient to subject the defendant to personal jurisdiction–but that’s in addition to extraterritorial jurisdiction against those non-residents whose contacts with the forum state, related to the matter being litigated, are substantial enough to satisfy due process. E.g., Burger King v. Rudzewicz,

While it’s true this is fairly elementary proposition,* pointing it out in this way sure looks like a dig. Please avoid taunting the tax lawyers. My dad is a tax lawyer.

General Questions Moderator

At my law school, we didn’t study personal jurisdiction in Civil Procedure–we studied civil procedure. I had to take an elective called Jurisdiction and Choice of Law to study personal jurisdiction.

They won’t care a fig about your letter unless it comes from your lawyer or another payor (insurer, Medicare, etc.)

However, if you call the hospital and ask to speak to the billing supervisor, they will discuss it with you. They will almost certainly have some sort of payment plan or financial assistance arrangement in place. You may even be able to negotiate a lower (“adjusted”) rate based on your local customary and reasonable costs, especially if they think you’ll go to court over unnecessary care rendered. Hospitals do write off bills all the time, but they probably won’t write off yours since there’s no insurance snafu here.

Oh, and if you ask a legal question, give your location!

*Keep in mind that if you don’t take further action they will probably end up getting a judgment entered against you in your state which will mean wage garnishments, frozen assets, and the like, and will be about ten times as unpleasant as just paying it now.

We took it in civil procedure, as an aspect of service of process. Seminal case, as I recall, was an English case about an Indian prince who got served with process while in England (late Victorian period). Good times, good times…

Read my post.

Having been on both the winning and losing side of lawsuits and from what I have seen in many hours of of sitting in courts for shits and giggles, it is common to see the awarding attorney costs and court fees. I have always asked for my out of pocket expenses in the 2 times I sued and it was never questioned, when I won the lawsuits I was also given my expenses too. I also base my answer as a senior member of the Free Advice forum, a free online legal forum. Come on over, you might learn something. My username is the same there as here and I am easy to find there.

As far as What the…?'s basic contention goes, isn’t there some general rule of construction that says that if you’ve engaged a professional to perform a professional service, you owe his normal charges, ceteris paribus, for that service, even if you end up not needing or wanting it; that it was his willingness to render professional advice or services, not the actual advice or services needed in the outset, that was contracted for?