Class Action Over Cost of Medical Records

California hospitals may find themselves facing a class action over claims they overcharged at least 152,000 patients seeking copies of their medical records.

A state appeals court ordered a case certified as a class action against Saint Francis Memorial Hospital and Healthport Technologies, a copy service, to allow a former patient to pursue allegations of overcharging.

California state law requires medical providers to produce medical records demanded by patients or their lawyers prior to litigation at a reasonable cost. The law designates 10-cents a page up to 8.5×14 in size, 20-cents per page for producing documents from microfilm, and clerical costs of up to $16 per hour, per person for locating the records.

Kristen Nicodemus sued in 2013 after her lawyer’s request for records from St. Francis was transferred to HealthPort, which charged $30 basic fee, $15 retrieval fee, 25-cents per page for 101 pages, $10 for shipping and nearly $6 for taxes. In all, Nicodemus was charged nearly $87 for copying that should have cost roughly $10 under the state law limit.

The trial court in San Francisco rejected her claim for class action status to recover alleged overcharges to nearly 152,000 patients who sought copies between 2009 and 2013.

The First District Court of Appeal held the denial of certification was “not supported by the mere fact that each class member cannot pursue his or her claims against all defendants.”  The class claims are not limited to Saint Francis Hospital patients, the court noted.

The appeal court sent the case back to the trial court. The case was initially filed Sept. 14 as a non-precedential unpublished case. The court ordered it published Oct. 6 as a precedent-setting matter that may be cited in other cases.

Case: Nicodemus v. Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, No. A141500



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