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Clouthier v. Medical Center of Central Georgia, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

September 20, 2019

CLOUTHIER
v.
The MEDICAL CENTER OF CENTRAL GEORGIA, INC.

Page 585

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 586

          Charles A. Gower, Charles Austin Gower Jr., Miranda Johnston Brash, Columbus, William H. Noland, Macon, Michael Brian Terry, Atlanta, Shaun Patrick O’Hara, Michael Rosen Baumrind, Frank Mitchell Lowrey IV, Atlanta, for Appellant.

         Roy Harold Meeks Jr., Amanda Wilson Speier, Atlanta, for Appellee.

          OPINION

         Miller, Presiding Judge.

          After Francis Clouthier was involved in a tractor-trailor accident, The Medical Center of Central Georgia, Inc. ("MCCG") placed a

Page 587

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 court’s order granting MCCG’s motion to dismiss his complaint, arguing that he pled viable claims for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and violations of Georgia’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ("RICO") Act. After a careful examination of Clouthier’s complaint, we determine that the trial court erred in dismissing the complaint. Therefore, we reverse.

          We review a trial court’s 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 party’s 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 Clouthier’s 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 Clouthier’s complaint.

         According to his complaint, Clouthier was injured in a tractor-trailer collision in August 2016, and an ambulance transported him to MCCG’s emergency room for treatment. After his discharge from the hospital, MCCG became aware that Clouthier’s injuries were caused by third parties, and in November 2016, MCCG filed a hospital lien against Clouthier’s 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."

         Clouthier 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 MCCG’s 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 ...


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