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Henley v. Biloxi H.M.A., LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

January 3, 2020

KIMBERLY HENLEY, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated PLAINTIFF
v.
BILOXI H.M.A., LLC; COMMUNITY HEALTH SYSTEMS, INC.; and JOHN AND JANE DOES 1 THROUGH 25 DEFENDANTS

          ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF KIMBERLY HENLEY'S PLACEHOLDER MOTION [2] FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT is Plaintiff Kimberly Henley's Placeholder Motion [2] for Class Certification filed on August 28, 2019. Defendants Biloxi H.M.A., LLC, Community Health Systems, Inc., and John and Jane Does 1 through 25 filed a Response [19] on November 15, 2019, to which Plaintiff replied on November 21, 2019. After review of the Motion, the record, and relevant legal authority, the Court finds that the Placeholder Motion [2] for Class Certification is premature under Local Uniform Civil Rule 23. For this reason, the Motion should be denied without prejudice and Plaintiff should be given leave to reassert a motion for class certification at the time directed by the case management order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Kimberly Henley (“Henley”) filed the Complaint in this case on August 27, 2019, asserting a single claim for declaratory relief. Compl. [1]. Specifically, she sought a finding that Defendants Biloxi H.M.A., LLC d/b/a Merit Health Biloxi, Community Health Systems, Inc., and John and Jane Does 1 Through 25 (collectively “Defendants”) owed a duty to disclose a surcharge that is billed to emergency care patients in advance of receiving treatment or services that would trigger such a charge. Id. at 11.

         On August 28, 2019, Henley filed the present Placeholder Motion [2] for Class Certification. She requests that the Court certify a class in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 on behalf of herself and all other persons similarly situated. Placeholder Mot. for Class Certification [2] at 1. Plaintiff proposes a class of

All individuals who, within the past three years, presented at a Merit Health hospital in Mississippi and were billed a facility fee identify [sic] with the CPT Code of 99281, 99282, 99283, 99284, or 99285.

Id. at 3.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 sets forth four requirements for class certification: (1) the class must be so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there must be questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties must be typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23.

         Henley asserts that the first requirement of numerosity is satisfied because “over 155, 000 patients visited the emergency departments of Merit Health's six hospitals in the Jackson/Vicksburg area in the year 2016 alone.” Placeholder Mot. for Class Certification [2] at 3. She alleges that Defendants' standard practice was to bill emergency room patients in Mississippi a hidden surcharge set at one of five levels based upon the patient's condition. Id. Henley's Motion contends that the common and shared issues of the class were whether Defendants had a duty to disclose the surcharge prior to providing the treatment and services that would trigger the charge. Id. Henley maintains that the requirement of typicality is also present because she “was an emergency room patient who received treatment at one of Defendants' emergency room facilities and who was billed a Surcharge in addition to the charges for the individual items of treatment and services provided during her visit.” Id. at 3-4. Finally, Henley reasons that she and her counsel can adequately represent the class because of “the interest shown by Plaintiff and her legal representatives who have substantial class action litigation experience.” Id. at 4.

         However, Henley's Motion also requests that the Court “continue the instant motion until a discovery schedule and briefing deadlines are established by the Court in connection with the parties' submission of a proposed case management order.” Id. Citing a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Henley asserts that a placeholder motion was necessary to protect the putative class from any attempt by Defendants to “buy off the named plaintiffs” and moot the class. Id. at 2. Henley asks that the merits of her Motion not be considered by the Court until there has been an opportunity to complete discovery on class issues and file supplemental briefing. Id. at 2.

         Defendants' Response in Opposition contends that Henley's Placeholder Motion for Class Certification should be denied without prejudice as unnecessary and premature. Resp. in Opp'n [19] at 2. Defendants argue that pursuant to Local Uniform Civil Rule 23 (“Local Rule 23”), Henley should have waited to file her Motion for Class Certification until after the entry of a case management order. Id. at 3. Because Local Rule 23 sets forth the time for filing a class certification motion, Defendants maintain that Henley's Placeholder Motion was unnecessary. Id. at 4. Further, according to Defendants, the rationale Henley advances for the risk that the claims may become moot is belied by United States Supreme Court precedent. Id. at 5.

         In reply, Henley contends that the Motion for Class Certification should be granted on the merits. Reply [24] at 2-6.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Henley's Motion is premature ...


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