Dameron Hospital Assn. v. AAA Northern Cal. etc.Annotate this Case
Appellant Dameron Hospital Association (Dameron) required patients or their family members to sign Conditions of Admissions (COAs) when Dameron provided the patients’ medical care. The COAs at issue in this case contained language that assigned to Dameron direct payment of uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM) benefits and medical payment (MP) benefits that would otherwise be payable to those patients under their automobile insurance policies. Dameron treated five of California State Automobile Association Inter-Insurance Bureau's ("CSAA") insureds for injuries following automobile accidents. Those patients had UM and/or MP coverage as part of their CSAA coverage, and Dameron sought to collect payment for those services from the patients’ UM and/or MP benefits at Dameron’s full rates. Instead of paying to Dameron the lesser of either all benefits due to the patients under their UM and MP coverage, or Dameron’s full charges, CSAA paid portions of those benefits directly to the patients which left balances owing on some of Dameron’s bills. Dameron sued CSAA to collect UM and MP benefits it contended CSAA owed Dameron under the assignments contained in the COAs. The trial court concluded that Dameron could not enforce any of the assignments contained in the COAs and entered judgment in CSAA’s favor following CSAA’s successful motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal held Dameron could not collect payment for emergency services from the UM or MP benefits due to patients that were covered under health insurance policies. Further, the Court held: (1) the COA forms were contracts of adhesion; (2) it was not within the reasonable possible expectations of patients that a hospital would collect payments for emergency care directly out of their UM benefits; and (3) a trier of fact might find it was within the reasonable expectations of patients that a hospital would collect payments for emergency care directly out of their MP benefits. Accordingly, the Court concluded Dameron could not maintain causes of action to collect MP or UM benefits due to four of the five patients directly from CSAA. However, consistent with this opinion, the trial court could consider whether an enforceable assignment of MP benefits was made by one adult patient.