By: Chris Aguiar, Esq.
As we saw last week, you cannot add the Patriots’ winning the Super Bowl to the list of absolutes in life (despite what my New England brethren might tell you). After death and taxes, few things are a given. Something similar can be said, that success is not a given, in the world of subrogation/reimbursement.
Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling to Kansas City, Kansas to testify on behalf of a client in a Preliminary Injunction Hearing in Federal District Court as we attempted to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order, a court proceeding to officially freeze the ability of an attorney or his client from spending money to which the Plan asserts an equitable lien by agreement. We spent weeks preparing, researching, committing facts to memory, and rehearsing examinations so that we could put our client in the best position to succeed. Unfortunately, the Judge had other Plans. Despite having witnesses from Kansas and beyond ready to testify – the Judge did not allow any testimony to be heard.
In the end, we were ultimately able to secure everything we needed for our client, but it's notable that something as simple (and typically predicable) as the procedure that a hearing will follow was entirely up to the discretion of the Judge that day. The Judge seemed to have an agenda, and there would be no deviating from it. We ended up on the right side of that agenda, but what if the alternative had been true –a significant risk given that Kansas qualifies as an anti-subrogation state. It’s very important in subrogation cases to consider all options. In many cases there is no doubt that the Plan’s rights are strong, but enforcement often comes at a significant cost. Unfortunately, in the world of Health Subrogation where Plan expenses appear to be limitless while tort reform and other factors allow auto policies to be limited to, in many cases, less than $100,000.00, the cost of enforcing the rights of the Plan in full can leave the Plan worse off than it started. That can even be true when things go exactly right – imagine when a Judge decides to throw a wrench into “the Plan”!