Balfour v. Nelson

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Balfour v. Nelson
1994 OK 149
890 P.2d 916
65 OBJ 4173
Case Number: 81569
Decided: 12/20/1994
Supreme Court of Oklahoma

DEBORA K. BALFOUR, D.C., D/B/A CHICKASHA CHIROPRACTIC CLINIC, APPELLANT,
v.
DEBRA PAUL NELSON, INDIVIDUALLY, AND DEBRA PAUL NELSON AS MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND OF JEREMY SHARAY PHILLIPS AND JEROME LATRAY PHILLIPS, MINOR CHILDREN;
ERHARDT KRABBINHOFT, JR.; WAGGONERS TRUCKING COMPANY; AND CONTINENTAL
INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLEES.

Appeal from the District Court, Grady County, Karen E. Hibbs, J.

Certiorari to the Court of Appeals, Division No. 3.

¶0 Appellant doctor treated patients for injuries caused by tortfeasor. The contract for medical services provided that payment was due either when patients settled their personal injury claims or within three months after treatments ceased. Pursuant to 42 O.S. 1991

CERTIORARI PREVIOUSLY GRANTED. OPINION OF THE COURT OF APPEALS VACATED. JUDGMENT OF THE DISTRICT COURT REVERSED AND REMANDED.

Rick W. Bisher, Boettcher, Ryan & Martin, Oklahoma City, and Donald H. Horn, Chickasha, for appellant.

Stephen H. Buzin, Chickasha, for appellees.

WATT, Justice:

[890 P.2d 917]

SUMMARY OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶1 Debra Paul Nelson and her two children, appellees, were injured in an automobile accident and sought medical treatment from appellant, Debora K. Balfour, D.C. Nelson related that she was asserting claims against another party to recover for their injuries and that she had insufficient funds to pay for treatment at that time. The parties entered into a contract whereby Nelson agreed to pay for medical services either when she settled the personal injury claims or within three months after treatments ceased, whichever occurred first. Dr. Balfour began treating appellees in July of 1989.

¶2 Pursuant to 42 O.S.Supp. 1985

¶3 Upon discovering that appellees were about to settle their personal injury claims, appellant filed a third lien statement for each patient. The statements, all filed on October 26, 1992, were for the same services and in the identical amounts claimed in the second lien filings. Appellees thereafter settled their personal injury claims.

¶4 The Honorable Karen Hibbs, Special District Judge, Grady County, sustained appellant's motion for summary judgment for all amounts due, but denied her lien claims against the settlement proceeds. The court held that appellant's foreclosure action failed because she did not file it within one year of the filing of the lien statements, and that the October 26, 1992, refilings for the same services and amounts did not reactivate the extinguished liens. Based upon similar reasoning, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision. This Court granted appellant's petition for writ of certiorari on July 11, 1994.

ISSUE

¶5 The sole issue presented is whether a doctor, who filed a physician's lien statement against the personal injury settlement proceeds of her patient pursuant to 42 O.S. 1991

DISCUSSION

¶6 Title 42 O.S. 1991

The present dispute arises from the interpretation of

¶7 Both courts below held that the one year time limit set forth above effectively operates as a statute of limitations for bringing an action under

¶8 The primary goal of statutory construction is to ascertain and, if possible, give effect to the intention and purpose of the Legislature as expressed in a statute. Ledbetter v. Okla, Alcoholic Bev. Laws Enforcement Comm'n, 764 P.2d 172, 179 (Okla. 1988). "[I]n construing statutes relevant portions must be considered together, where possible, to give force and effect to each other. Further, the cardinal rule of statutory construction is to begin with consideration of the language used and courts should not read into a statute exceptions not made by the Legislature." Id. (footnotes omitted). Courts cannot ignore the terms prescribed by a statute creating a lien. Riffe Petroleum Co. v. Great Nat'l Corp., Inc., 614 P.2d 576, 579 (Okla. 1980).

¶9 Based upon a clear reading of the language used in

¶10 Title 42 O.S. 1991

¶11 It is apparent that the legislative intent of

¶12 In Balfour v. Jacobs, 867 P.2d 1364 (Okla. App. 1993), the appellant brought suit against the alleged tortfeasor and her liability insurer to foreclose a

If we were to agree with Appellees, then the lien could be defeated by the parties by simply waiting until the one year limitation period elapsed. The purpose of the statute would be thwarted.

Id. at 1366. The above quote applies to the present case as well. If the one year limit of subsection 46(C) served as an absolute bar to bringing an action under

CONCLUSION

¶13 The expiration of the one year time limit of

¶14 Certiorari previously granted. The opinion of the Court of Appeals is vacated. The judgment of the district court is reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

¶15 HODGES, C.J., LAVENDER, V.C.J., and SIMMS, HARGRAVE, OPALA and SUMMERS, JJ., concur.

¶16 KAUGER, J., concurs in result.

¶17 ALMA WILSON, J., dissents.

Footnotes:

1 The settlement proceeds were ordered paid to appellees' attorney pending resolution of the doctor's lien claims.

2 Section 46 has not been amended since its enactment in 1985.

3 See, for example, the following lien statutes which direct that lien statements be filed within a specified period after the occurrence of some event: 42 O.S.Supp. 1992 ' 98 - personal property production, alteration or repair liens (within sixty days after last furnishing of labor, money, material or supplies); 42 O.S. 1991 ' 112 - threshers and combiners liens (within thirty days after work is completed); 42 O.S. 1991 ' 142 - mechanics and materialmens liens (within four months after material, equipment or labor last furnished/performed under contract); 42 O.S. 1991 ' 146 - oil and gas well liens (within one hundred eighty days after material, machinery, supplies, labor or services last furnished/performed under contract); 42 O.S. 1991 ' 150 - mining property lien (within forty-five days after labor last performed). The statute at issue herein, 42 O.S. 1991 ' 46 , does not contain such a mathematical "front end" date before which a lien statement must be filed.

4 Title 12 O.S. 1991 ' 95 , provides in relevant part:

Civil actions . . . can only be brought within the following periods, after the cause of action shall have accrued, and not afterwards: First, Within five (5) years: An action upon any contract, agreement or promise in writing.

SIMMS, J., CONCURRING SPECIALLY:

¶1 I concur with the result of the majority opinion insofar as it finds the physician's lien is valid and protects her interest in the personal injury settlement proceeds. I write separately to point out that 42 O.S. 1991

¶2 It is with good reason that the majority opinion strains with the effort of trying to make sense of

¶3 The jarring words of

¶4 With the exception of

¶5 The hospital lien and the physician's lien are both made inferior to the lien or claim of the injured person's attorney. The practical effect of the application of

¶6 While we are not presented here with arguments urging us to strike this section, it is obvious to me that the legislature needs to be advised of this conflict within the statutory provisions, and the need of a legislative remedy.

¶7 Additionally, I am concerned that the majority opinion could be read as holding that the issue here is the validity of the physician's lien, in light of the physician's failure to comply with the requirement of

¶8 Inasmuch as the facts before us do not indicate that the priority of claims was involved in this case, the physician's failure to comply with the requirement of

¶9 I am authorized to state that Justice OPALA concurs in the majority opinion but also joins me in the views expressed herein.

Footnotes:

1 See Balfour v. Jacobs, 867 P.2d 1364 (Okl.App. 1993).

2 The provisions of ' 46(D) appear to have been taken from 42 O.S. 1991 ' 172 . That section, however, pertains to enforcing liens on real property and is not applicable to the purposes the legislature attempted to serve with the enactment of this statutory protection for physicians in their treatment of patients injured by another.

3 See for instance Regents of University of N.M. v. Lacey, 107 N.M. 742, 764 P.2d 873 (1988) regarding that time limitation for enforcing a hospital lien.