MEDICAL RECOVERY SERVICES, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company, Plaintiff-Appellant,
JARED NEUMEIER, Defendant-Respondent.
Opinion No. 31
from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of
the State of Idaho, Bonneville County. Hon. Joel E. Tingey,
District Judge. The judgment of the district court is
Driscoll & Associates, PLLC, Idaho Falls, for appellant.
Bryan N. Zollinger argued.
Hopkins, Roden, Crockett, Hansen & Hoopes, PLLC, Idaho
Falls, for respondent. Sean J. Coletti argued.
case centers on efforts to collect payment for medical
services. Medical Recovery Services, LLC ("MRS"), a
licensed collection agency, appeals from a district court
decision affirming rulings of the magistrate court in favor
of the patient. We affirm the district court's decision.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
2012, Jared Neumeier received medical services from Dr. Eric
G. Baird, a medical provider operating through Idaho Falls
Surgical Specialists, PLLC. During his visit, Neumeier
provided Dr. Baird's office with information regarding
his Blue Cross of Idaho insurance coverage. Neumeier left the
office expecting that the bill would be submitted to his
insurer. Following his visit, for reasons that are not part
of the record, the office did not submit the bill to
Neumeier's insurer, and instead sought payment directly
from him. The office sent the bill to an incorrect address.
April 2014, without a response from Neumeier, Dr. Baird's
billing agent assigned the delinquent account to MRS for
collection. Pursuant to the assignment, MRS acquired Dr.
Baird's contractual rights in the agreement with
Neumeier, as well as interest in any claim against Neumeier
for payment of services in the amount of $1, 190.28.
Thereafter, MRS continued to try to contact Neumeier by
sending him mail at an incorrect address. Throughout this
time, Neumeier did not receive any of the attempted
communications from Dr. Baird or MRS, nor did he receive any
other form of demand for payment related to his visit. During
this same time, Neumeier saw Dr. Baird for other unrelated
medical services, which resulted in a separate bill that Dr.
Baird's office submitted to Neumeier's insurer for
April 2015, MRS sent a letter addressed to Neumeier at his
correct address. The one-page letter-which was attached to
MRS's complaint and is the only communication to Neumeier
from either Dr. Baird or MRS found in the record-took the
form of a notice letter under the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692a-o. In addition to
stating Neumeier's contact information, the notice letter
provided an amount of debt ($958.63 exclusive of interest),
the name of the creditor (MRS), and paraphrased recitations
of the required inclusions under the Act. The undated notice
letter did not identify Dr. Baird or connect the debt with a
particular bill or treatment.
14, 2015, without a response from Neumeier, MRS sent the
account to its legal counsel with instructions to file an
action to recover the debt. Thereafter, on Saturday, May 16,
2015, Neumeier returned home from a two-week vacation and
first opened the notice letter. On Monday, May 18, 2015,
Neumeier visited Dr. Baird's office under the belief that
the notice letter was a fraud or scam. During this visit, the
office discovered that it had never submitted the bill to
Neumeier's insurer; however, the office also informed
Neumeier that the account had already been assigned to MRS
for collection. On the same date, MRS filed a complaint
against Neumeier, seeking a total award of $1, 891.37,
including $958.63 for the principal amount, $282.39 in
statutory prejudgment interest, and attorney's fees and
costs. The next day, Neumeier contacted MRS and was informed
that he was "too late" because the account had
already been forwarded to its legal counsel. Thereafter,
Neumeier contacted MRS's legal counsel, which told him
that he owed over $1, 800. A month later, Neumeier was served
with the complaint and summons.
to Neumeier's May 18th visit, Dr. Baird's office
submitted the bill to Blue Cross for payment. As shown by an
explanation of benefits form that Neumeier received from the
insurer, Blue Cross paid all but $42.66 of the bill, which
was designated as a copayment balance. Shortly thereafter,
Dr. Baird's office notified Neumeier that it was waiving
the copayment balance. The office also informed MRS that the
account had been satisfied, and MRS in turn notified its
counsel. The record is silent as to how MRS's contractual
rights and interest in any claim against Neumeier related to
the post-assignment interaction between Dr. Baird and
the account was satisfied, Neumeier reached out to MRS in an
effort to have the debt collection action terminated. MRS
refused, and Neumeier moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant
to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The motion was
supported by an affidavit from Neumeier. MRS filed its
opposition-with an affidavit from an MRS manager-in which it
sought denial of the motion and requested that the magistrate
court enter summary judgment in its favor for the amount of
$0. At a hearing on the dismissal motion, the magistrate
converted Neumeier's motion to a summary judgment
proceeding. The magistrate ultimately granted summary
judgment in favor of Neumeier while denying the same for MRS,
and, in turn, entered judgment for Neumeier and awarded him
attorney's fees and costs as the prevailing party.
a motion from MRS, the magistrate set aside the judgment and
allowed the parties to submit supplemental briefing on the
unresolved issue of MRS's entitlement to statutory
prejudgment interest. Thereafter, the magistrate ruled that
MRS was not entitled to prejudgment interest. Accordingly,
the magistrate reinstated and affirmed its prior decision,
awarded additional fees and costs to Neumeier, and entered
judgment in favor of Neumeier. The magistrate later denied
MRS's motion to reconsider, and a first-amended judgment
was entered to reflect an award of additional fees and costs
there, MRS appealed the matter to the district court. The
district court dismissed the appeal after MRS failed to
timely file the requested transcript and to pay the required
transcript fee. The district court subsequently reinstated
the appeal after finding that MRS's failures constituted
excusable neglect. The court eventually affirmed the
decisions of the magistrate and awarded Neumeier additional
fees and costs. MRS now timely appeals to this Court.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing a decision of a district court acting in its
capacity as an appellate court, this Court
reviews the trial court (magistrate) record to determine
whether there is substantial and competent evidence to
support the magistrate's findings of fact and whether the
magistrate's conclusions of law follow from those
findings. If those findings are so supported and the
conclusions follow therefrom and if the district court
affirmed the magistrate's decision, we affirm the
district court's decision as a matter of procedure.
Losser v. Bradstreet, 145 Idaho 670, 672, 183 P.3d
758, 760 (2008) (quoting Nicholls v. Blaser, 102
Idaho 559, 561, 633 P.2d 1137, 1139 (1981)). "[T]his
court does not review the decision of the magistrate court.
'Rather, we are procedurally bound to affirm or reverse
the decisions of the district court.'" Pelayo v.
Pelayo, 154 Idaho 855, 859, 303 P.3d 214, 218 (2013)