Chiropractor ordered to answer questions in class discovery

Steve Korris Dec. 18, 2008, 1:52am

Chiropractor clients of the Lakin Law Firm routinely require insurers to answer intrusive questions. Now, an insurer has turned the tables.

On Dec. 11, Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack ordered Lakin client Frank Bemis to answer questions that Employers Mutual Casualty asked in November.

Bemis and companies belonging to him seek to pursue a class action against Employers Mutual, claiming it improperly reduced payouts on workers compensation claims.

Employers Mutual persuaded Stack that it needed answers in advance of a Feb. 11 hearing on a Lakin motion to certify a class action.

Employers Mutual sought 113 answers, and Stack granted 18 while denying the other 95 without prejudice.

Bemis sued Employers Mutual in 2005, just ahead of the effective date of the national Class Action Fairness Act that steered most new class actions to federal courts.

He claimed Employers Mutual reaped the benefits of preferred provider organizations, or PPOs, without keeping a commitment to refer patients to providers.

Bemis and other local chiropractors had filed many Madison County class actions through the Lakin firm since 2003.

His complaint stated that he did business as Frank Bemis and Associates.

Lakin lawyer Jeff Millar amended the complaint this July, adding Frank C. Bemis and Associates, Chiropractors, as a plaintiff.

The subtle change made a big difference, for Employers Mutual immediately filed a third party complaint against software vendor Fair Isaac.

Employers Mutual quoted contract language holding Fair Isaac responsible for any billing errors.

Employers Mutual then asked Stack for permission to propound interrogatories on the new plaintiff beyond the normal limit of 30.

Attorney Thomas Pender of Chicago wrote that it was unrealistic and unfair to argue class certification with a plaintiff who had never been subject to discovery.

Stack agreed, up to a point.

He ordered the new plaintiff to answer Employers Mutual's first 10 questions:

  • Name, address and title of each officer and shareholder.

  • The form of the business and its license or registration on the date of treatment of Stuart Hays.

  • Does the plaintiff hold a registration certificate from the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation?

  • Do the officers, directors and shareholders hold licenses pursuant to the Medical Practices Act?

  • Is the plaintiff licensed or registered as a medical corporation?

  • Has the plaintiff applied for a medical or professional corporation registration?

  • The year of first organization as a corporation.

  • Was the plaintiff organized as a service corporation and if so, was the predecessor corporation dissolved?

  • Has the corporation charter been amended and if so, who has the greatest knowledge about each amendment?

  • Who has possession of corporate records and minute books?

    Stack also required an answer to question number 22, asking if plaintiff and Hays had a physician patient or chiropractor patient relationship.

    He also required answers:

  • Asking if plaintiff had a legal right to seek payment from Hays and if so, whether plaintiff pursued recovery from him.

  • Asking if Ryan Bemis was an employee when he rendered services to Hays.

  • Asking if plaintiff had a legal right to recover the balance from Hays and if not, why not.

  • Asking for a document retention policy.

  • Asking if plaintiff had a professional medical license and whether it was ever suspended or

  • Asking if plaintiff ever had a contract with Employers Mutual.

  • Asking if plaintiff was a third party beneficiary of the insurance contract with Hays's employer and if so, what specific language in it supported the allegations against Employers Mutual.

    The other 95 questions would dig a lot deeper. Stack did not allow questions that:

  • Would identify every claim for reimbursement that plaintiff sent to anyone other than Employers Mutual.

  • Would identify "any court rulings, orders, or judgment issued by any court anywhere in the world that has ever concluded that the practices you allege EMC is guilty of violate any law, statute or are in any way improper, illegal, fraudulent, bogus, illegitimate, false, arbitrary, a secret, a sham, a deception, or a scheme."

  • Would ask why plaintiff didn't seek a compromise of the billing dispute.

  • Would ask if plaintiff has been rejected for a professional license.

  • Would ask if plaintiff recovered damages in any similar medical bill review lawsuits, either as a named plaintiff or a class member.

  • Would ask, "Who received the benefit of your services to this patient?"

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