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Sheppard Pratt Physicians, P.A. v. Sakwa

April 23, 1998

SHEPPARD PRATT PHYSICIANS, P.A.
v.
HERMAN C. SAKWA



DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/18/93 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN M. MONTGOMERY COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: OKTIBBEHA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

Before Sullivan, P.j., Pittman, P.j., And Banks, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Banks, Justice, For The Court:

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - CONTRACT

DISPOSITION REVERSED AND REMANDED - 4/23/98

¶1. Here we are called upon to determine whether a third-party supplier of medical services may maintain an action against a non-custodial parent for medical expenses rendered on behalf of the parent's minor child. In doing so, we must also ascertain whether the law of Maryland or the law of Mississippi should be applied to the instant case. Applying Maryland law to the facts before us, we conclude that a non- custodial parent may be held liable for the unpaid medical services rendered to his minor child.

I.

¶2. Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Physicians, P.A. (Sheppard) rendered medical treatment to Stephanie Sakwa, the minor daughter of the appellee Herman C. Sakwa, from February 19, 1988, through May 31, 1989. The amount of $23,765 remains due for these services. At the time these medical services were rendered, the Sakwas were divorced and remain so.

¶3. During the trial proceedings, Sheppard moved for summary judgment against the defendant for $23,765, together with attorneys fees, costs, and interest, for physician services rendered to the Sakwa's daughter. The court overruled Sheppard's motion and held that neither the law of Maryland nor Mississippi created a right of action in favor of third- party medical care providers for the collection of unpaid medical bills. Sakwa later filed a Miss. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment, based on his assertion that the law does not permit a direct action against parents for the payment of unpaid medical costs and expenses in favor of the providers of medical care. Sakwa's motion for summary judgment was granted. Sheppard appeals.

II.

¶4. Neither party has directly asserted that the trial court erred in failing to decide whether the law of Maryland or Mississippi should be applied in the instant case. Both parties assert that their positions are supported by the law of both states.

¶5. In analyzing choice of law questions, we have adopted the "center of gravity" test. Ford v. State Farm Ins. Co., 625 So. 2d 792, 794 (Miss. 1993); Boardman v. United Services Auto. Ass'n, 470 So. 2d 1024, 1031 (Miss. 1985). Where the issue presented is whether the law of this state or that of some other forum is to be applied, this Court must determine which state "has the most substantial contacts with the parties and the subject matter of the action." Boardman, 470 So. 2d at 1031.

¶6. This Court has also applied Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 188 to the review of choice of law questions in cases involving contracts, both express and implied. Id. at 1032. See also Crouch v. General Elec. Co., 699 F.Supp. 585 (S. D. Miss. 1988); Richardson v. Clayton & Lambert Mfg. Co., 634 F.Supp. 1480 (N. D. Miss. 1986). Restatement § 188 states, in pertinent part:

(2) In the absence of an effective choice of law by the parties (see ยง 187),the contacts to be taken into account. . .to determine ...


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