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Kern v. Lehigh Valley Hosp., Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

January 28, 2015

CONNIE W. KERN, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Appellant
v.
LEHIGH VALLEY HOSPITAL, INC., A PENNSYLVANIA CORPORATION LEHIGH VALLEY HOSPITAL-MUHLENBERG, A PENNSYLVANIA CORPORATION, AND LEHIGH VALLEY HEALTH NETWORK, INC. A PENNSYLVANIA CORPORATION, TOGETHER DOING BUSINESS AS LEHIGH VALLEY HEALTH NETWORK, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 25, INCLUSIVE, Appellee, APPEAL OF: CONNIE W. KERN

Argued, June 25, 2014

Page 1282

Appeal from the Order entered August 14, 2013. In the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County. Civil Division at No: Case No. 2012-C-3438. Before JOHNSON, J.

Mark R. Cuker, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Robin L. Nagele, Philadelphia, for appellee.

BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., PANELLA, and STABILE, JJ. Judge Panella joins the opinion. President Judge Gantman concurs in the result.

OPINION

Page 1283

 STABILE, J.

Appellant/plaintiff Connie W. Kern appeals from the August 13, 2013,[1] order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County (trial court), which denied his motion for class certification for his claims against Appellee/defendant Lehigh Valley Hospital, Inc.[2] Upon review, we affirm.

This facts and procedural history of this case are undisputed. As relayed by the trial court:

The case . . . arises from the hospital visit of [Appellant] on June 9, 2011. On that date, [Appellant] was transported by ambulance to the emergency room at

Page 1284

the Cedar Crest campus of [Lehigh Valley Hospital] [(]LVH[)] for injuries sustained at an amusement park. Prior to treatment, [Appellant] signed the [a]uthorization for [t]reatment document admitted into evidence. The heart of the issue raised by [Appellant] is based on the [p]ayment [g]uarantee paragraph of the [a]uthorization for [t]reatment document, where [Appellant] and other uninsured patients are not informed of the price they will pay versus what a privately insured or government insured patient would pay for the same services. [Appellant] alleges that [Appellees] conceal that uninsured patients will be billed according to a " Chargemaster" list, which cannot be obtained by patients.
On June 16, 2011, [Appellant] received a medical bill from LVH for $14,626.53. Although [Appellant] settled his claim against the amusement park for his injuries for $1,000, he never attempted to pay LVH any of the amount billed for services, despite several notices. On March 28, 2012, [Appellees] sent [Appellant] a [r]educed [c]ost of [c]are [a]pplication, which [Appellant] never completed, and [Appellant] never attempted to pay any amount of his medical bill. On April 13, 2012, [Appellant] was served with a complaint for payment of debt owed for medical services which had been provided to him on June 9, 2011. On August 16, 2012, the original [c]omplaint was filed in the action at bar and on September 4, 2012 [Appellees] withdrew [their] action for the collection of [Appellant's] debt.
This case was briefly removed to Federal Court but was then returned to State Court by stipulation of the parties. On November 26, 2012, [Appellant] filed an [a]mended [c]omplaint alleging three counts; breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law 73 P.S. § 201-1, et seq. (" UTPCPL" ).[3] Following preliminary objections by the [Appellees], this [trial court] issued an opinion on February 12, 2013 dismissing the breach of contract count because [Appellant's] pleadings were based on the Uniform Commercial Code and this case involves a services contract. In that opinion, th[e] [trial court] also dismissed the breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing count because LVH was acting as a creditor at the time of the relevant allegations and, as a creditor, was entitled to collection of the owed debt. Finally, in that opinion, [the trial court] overruled the objection to the count for violation of the UTPCPL, holding that a private citizen has standing under the statute merely because of the harm of a pending lawsuit. Following that opinion, th[e] [court] established a schedule for the parties to submit briefs on the issue of certification of the class and for a hearing on the issue of certification. The parties elected to present [a joint stipulation of facts] and certain exhibits by stipulation in lieu of presenting testimony at the hearing. The hearing was held on July 12, 2013 and both parties presented extensive argument.

Trial Court Opinion, 8/14/13, at 1-3 (internal record citation omitted). Following the hearing, the ...


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