Kardis was correct in dismissing class action, court rules

By Steve Gonzalez | Dec 8, 2005

Appellate Judge Stephen Spomer

Former Madison County Circuit Judge Philip Kardis' decision to dismiss a class action complaint in 2003 was affirmed by the Illinois Appellate Court Dec. 7.

Lorice Harris, Lamanda Millman and Jack Carson filed suit Aug. 19, 2002 against Chartone f/k/a HCC Health information and Smart Corporation claiming they were charging excessive fees for copying medical records.

Plaintiffs received invoices, which contained charges for "clerical fees," a charge per page, and a charge for a shipping fee, from the defendants which contained a breakdown of the charges.

The invoices contained a charge for a "basic fee," a charge for a "retrieval fee," a charge per page, a shipping and handling charge and a sales tax charge.

The defendants filed motions to dismiss citing the voluntary-payment doctrine as an affirmative defense to all the counts of the complaint.

Defense argued that because the plaintiffs' complaint alleged that they had received and paid the invoices detailing the charges for copies, there was no question of fact on the face of the pleadings regarding the applicability of the voluntary-payment doctrine and that the complaint should be dismissed.

Kardis agreed with the argument and dismissed the case, denying the plaintiffs' leave to amend their complaint to allege a common law basis for requiring hospitals to assess only reasonable charges for copying patient records.

In denying the plaintiffs' motion to reverse Kardis, Judge Stephen Spomer wrote the opinion for the court stating, "We find the plaintiffs' arguments unpersuasive."

"The court found that the facts were not obscured or inaccessible but, rather, that the plaintiff's lack of knowledge could be attributed to its lack of investigation into the defendant's claim of liability and the basis upon which the defendant was seeking the tax," Spomer wrote.

"We conclude that the plaintiffs had enough information to determine whether there was a basis to protest or at least to investigate the exact factual basis for the charges.

"The plaintiffs or their attorneys paid the invoices voluntarily, knowing the purported basis for the charges. Furthermore, there is no allegation in the plaintiffs' complaint setting forth any facts that were not known to them at the time of payment and that they later discovered. Therefore, the plaintiffs cannot establish a mistake of fact or fraud under the allegations of their complaint."

Judges Stephen McGlynn and Terrance Hopkins concurred.

The plaintiffs were represented by Rex Carr and Marty Perron. The defendants were represented by Bryan Cave Law Firm in St. Louis.

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