[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Charles A. Gower, Charles Austin Gower Jr., Miranda Johnston
Brash, Columbus, William H. Noland, Macon, Michael Brian
Terry, Atlanta, Shaun Patrick OHara, Michael Rosen Baumrind,
Frank Mitchell Lowrey IV, Atlanta, for Appellant.
Harold Meeks Jr., Amanda Wilson Speier, Atlanta, for
Francis Clouthier was involved in a tractor-trailor accident,
The Medical Center of Central Georgia, Inc.
("MCCG") placed a
lien on his causes of action. In response, Clouthier filed a
putative class action against MCCG challenging the lien and
raising numerous claims for damages. Clouthier appeals from
the trial courts order granting MCCGs motion to dismiss his
complaint, arguing that he pled viable claims for fraud,
negligent misrepresentation, and violations of Georgias
Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
("RICO") Act. After a careful examination of
Clouthiers complaint, we determine that the trial court
erred in dismissing the complaint. Therefore, we reverse.
review a trial courts ruling on a motion to dismiss de novo.
Roberts v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, Nat. Assn., 342
Ga.App. 73, 802 S.E.2d 880 (2017).
A trial court should not grant a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
unless: (1) the allegations of the complaint disclose with
certainty that the claimant would not be entitled to relief
under any state of provable facts asserted in support
thereof; and (2) the movant establishes that the claimant
could not possibly introduce evidence within the framework of
the complaint sufficient to warrant a grant of the relief
sought. In deciding a motion to dismiss, all pleadings are to
be construed most favorably to the party who filed them, and
all doubts regarding such pleadings must be resolved in the
filing partys favor. In other words, a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim should not be granted unless it
appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would be entitled
to no relief under any state of facts which could be proved
in support of his claim.
(Citation omitted.) Ikomoni v. Bank of America,
N.A., 330 Ga.App. 776, 776-777, 769 S.E.2d 527 (2015).
We emphasize that we are at the motion-to-dismiss stage,
prior to the completion of discovery, and we are not
considering whether Clouthiers claims will ultimately prove
meritorious or the likelihood that Clouthier will indeed be
able to introduce evidence to support his claims. "If,
within the framework of the complaint, evidence may
be introduced which will sustain a grant of relief to the
plaintiff, the complaint is sufficient." (Citation
omitted; emphasis supplied.) Id. at 777, 769 S.E.2d
527. Thus, "it is the rare case in which a motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim, as opposed to a motion
for summary judgment, will provide an appropriate procedural
device for securing summary adjudication of the issues raised
in a complaint ...." (Citation omitted.) Radio
Perry, Inc. v. Cox Communications, Inc., 323 Ga.App.
604, 611 (1) (b), 746 S.E.2d 670 (2013). Mindful of these
principles, we turn to Clouthiers complaint.
to his complaint, Clouthier was injured in a tractor-trailer
collision in August 2016, and an ambulance transported him to
MCCGs emergency room for treatment. After his discharge from
the hospital, MCCG became aware that Clouthiers injuries
were caused by third parties, and in November 2016, MCCG
filed a hospital lien against Clouthiers causes of action,
in the amount of $56,856.89. Specifically, the lien affidavit
stated that MCCG "claims a lien upon any and all causes
of action accruing to [Clouthier] on account of injuries
giving rise to such causes of action and that necessitated
hospital care." The affidavit also stated that the lien
was claimed "as provided for in the Official Code of
Georgia Annotated, Section 44-14-470 et seq."
reached a "confidential" settlement in his
collision case and then filed a complaint and petition for
class action against MCCG in the Bibb County State Court.
Clouthier alleged that MCCGs lien and charges were for the
"full chargemaster rate" or "sticker
price" of his medical procedures, "which [did] not
represent a reasonable charge for the treatment
received." Clouthier claimed that MCCG knew that the
lien amount was not reasonable, and he raised claims of
fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and ...