The “Internal Inconsistency” of Missouri's Personal Injury Lien Law
RSMO 430.240 sets forth the requirements medical providers must follow when perfecting their personal injury lien. It provides four items that must be on the notice of lien:
1.) The name and address of the injured person;
2.) The date of the accident;
3.) The name and location of the hospital;
4.) The name of the person, firms, or corporations alleged to be liable
to the injured party for the injuries received
To date, the only Missouri appellate court case that came close to addressing this issue was Truman Med. Ctr., Inc. V. Am. Standard Ins. Co., 508 S.W.3d 122 (Mo. App. 2017). The court sidestepped directly ruling on this, as in that case, the lien notice sent had the claim number on it, sufficient in the court’s opinion to satisfy the identity requirement of RSMO 430.240.
The issue that is ripe for a future ruling is whether the lien is enforceable without inclusion of the at fault party’s name.
Had the court addressed this issue in Truman, they would have balanced the legislature’s intent in writing RSMO 430.240 versus the plain language of the statute.
Courts look beyond the pain meaning of the statute only when “the language is ambiguous or would lead to an absurd or illogical result. Bateman vs. Rinehart, 391 S.W.3d 441, 446 (Mo. Banc 2013). Courts should presume that the legislature intended every word, clause, sentence, and provision of the statute have effect. Steven v. Residential Funding Corp., 334 S.W.3d 477, 498 (Mo. App. 2010). When determining the legislature intent of a statute, no portion of the statue is read in isolation, but rather the portions are read in context to harmonize all the statute’s provisions. BASF Corp. v. Dir. Of Revenue, 392 S.W.3d 438, 444 (Mo. Banc 2012).
A “precise and technical” reading of RSO 420.240 requires the name of the tortfeasor on the lien notice, on the other hand, it is absurd to conclude that a lien is not valid on these grounds alone when reading the statute while keeping in view of the legislature’s likely intent.
The lower court in Truman believed there was an internal inconsistency within RSMO 420.240. They read the “if known” language of RSMO 420.240 as excusing a hospital from including information that it did not or does not know. They felt that “courts should presume that the legislature intended every word, clause, sentence, and provision of a statute have effect.” Steven v. Residential Funding Corp., 334 S.W.3d 477, 498 (Mo. App. 2010). The used this to infer that RSMO 430.240 waives both the requirement to mail the lien notice of the allegedly liable party and the requirement to list the allegedly liable party on the written notice.
It is likely that a conservative court in Missouri could strictly construe the text of the lien statute to find that the at fault party’s name is required. “There can be no doubt that by including in Section 430.240 the requirement that the lien include the name of the person. . . alleged to be liable to the injured party for the injuries received, the legislature intended that the identity of those allegedly responsible be transmitted to the insurance company.” Truman Med. Ctr., Inc. V. Am. Standard Ins. Co., 508 S.W.3d 122, 127 (Mo. App. 2017).
Until a court rules otherwise, medical providers would be wise to only assert personal injury liens once they have information from which to identify the at fault party. A notice containing any one of name, claim number, or policy number should be sufficient. Those liens sent that fail to include any of those are in jeopardy of being stricken down as unenforceable.