SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CN) - Hospitals that collect liens against judgments on personal injury lawsuits do not have to pay the lawyers who win the case, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled, in a reversal. The court found "that the common fund doctrine is not applicable to health care liens under the [Illinois Health Care Services Lien] Act.
The ruling reverses a ruling from the Fifth District appellate court, which ruled that Southern Illinois Hospital Services was responsible for attorney fees in two cases from Williamson County.
The Illinois Supreme Court found that the appellate court overturned a precedent set in 1979, Maynard v. Parker, which the court should have followed.
"Plaintiffs present no compelling reason to depart from our long standing precedent, which, until the appellate court's decision in the instant case, has been consistently followed by Illinois courts," Justice Anne Burke wrote.
"The plaintiffs argue that the hospitals benefited from their attorneys' efforts because the hospitals avoided having to pay their own attorney to pursue collection of the unpaid medical bills," Burke added. "While this is true, the hospitals also had no opportunity to choose their own counsel or to negotiate a settlement on their own terms in the personal injury litigation."
Justices Charles Freeman, Robert Thomas, Rita Garman and Mary Jane Theis concurred. Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride and Justice Lloyd Karmeier did not participate.