A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT MAY AFFECT YOUR RIGHTS
A court authorized this notice. This is not a solicitation from a lawyer.
- Lopez v. Health Management Associates, et al., is a lawsuit filed by Angela Lopez alleging that Yakima Regional Medical Center and Toppenish Community Hospital (together, “the Hospitals”) did not screen patients for charity care before seeking payment for hospital services those patients received. The Defendants (who owned the Hospitals) deny the allegations. The Court has yet not found Defendants in violation of any law.
- Information concerning your medical care, including your name and address (called Protected Health Information, or “PHI”), is highly confidential and is protected under both state and federal law. Please be advised that the Hospitals have not disclosed your PHI to anyone, and that your name and address have been provided only to a court-appointed administrator on a confidential basis, under a Court order, solely for the purpose of mailing this notice.
- A judge has decided that Ms. Lopez may represent a class of patients and that Columbia Legal Services and Sirianni Youtz Spoonemore Hamburger can be the lawyers for the Class. The Class is:
All individuals who:
- obtained “appropriate hospital-based medical services” from YRMC and/or TCH at any time between October 22, 2007 and September 1, 2014;
- were, at the time of service, “indigent”; and
- were not screened for charity care.
The terms “appropriate hospital-based medical services” and “indigent” have the same meaning as those terms are defined in WAC 246-453-010.
- You are not a Class Member simply because you got this notice. If you are unsure whether you are a Class Member, you can call the lawyers for the class (“Class Counsel”) at the number below for help.
- There is no money available now and no guarantee that there will be. If the Class is awarded money as a result of settlement or trial, Class Members will be notified how to apply for a share of the award. If disclosure of PHI is necessary at any point in the litigation, you may be asked to sign a written authorization, pursuant to state and federal privacy laws, allowing appropriate persons access to necessary PHI.
YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS AND OPTIONS IN THIS LAWSUIT IF YOU ARE A CLASS MEMBER:
- DO NOTHING. Stay in this lawsuit. Give up the right to file a separate lawsuit.
If you do nothing you will automatically remain in the Class, you will be represented by Class Counsel at no cost to you, and your rights will be determined at trial or by settlement. You will give up any rights to sue Defendants separately about the legal claims in this lawsuit.
- ASK TO BE EXCLUDED BY OCTOBER 5, 2015. Get out of this lawsuit. Get no benefits from it. Keep the right to file a separate lawsuit.
If you ask to be excluded from the Class, and if money is later awarded, you will not share in the award. However, you will keep any rights to sue Defendants separately about the same legal claims in this lawsuit.
- HAVE YOUR OWN ATTORNEY APPEAR IN THIS CASE BY OCTOBER 5, 2015. Stay in this lawsuit. Have your own lawyer represent you.
If you stay in the lawsuit, your rights will be determined at trial, but you will be able to have your own attorney, rather than Class Counsel, represent you. Your attorney must file a Notice of Appearance in Yakima County Superior Court in the above litigation by October 5, 2015.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Why did I get a notice?
Lopez v. Health Management Associates et al., Civil Action No. 13-2-03580-3, is a lawsuit filed in Yakima County Superior Court in Yakima, Washington. The Court has not yet found Defendants in violation of any law.
You received a notice because you have been identified by Yakima Regional Medical Center and/or Toppenish Community Hospital (together, the “Hospitals”) as someone who received treatment at the Hospitals between October 22, 2007 and September 1, 2014. You are not a Class Member simply because you got a notice.
Only patients of the two Hospitals who: (a) received certain services, (b) were “indigent” at the time of service, and (c) were not screened for charity care are “Class Members.” “Indigent” is defined as earning less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, adjusted for family size. If you are unsure whether you are part of the Class, you can get free help by contacting Class Counsel at 206-223-0303 or Lopezlitigation@sylaw.com.
2. What about my privacy rights?
Information concerning your medical care, including your name and billing and medical information (Protected Health Information or PHI), is highly confidential and is protected under both state and federal law. Please be advised that the Hospitals have not disclosed anything concerning your medical care to anyone, and that your name and address have been provided only to a court-appointed administrator on a confidential basis solely for the purpose of mailing this notice. Before your PHI is disclosed, you will be asked to sign a written authorization pursuant to state and federal privacy laws to allow appropriate persons access to your PHI.
3. What is a class action and who is involved?
In a class action lawsuit, an individual sues individuals or entities (together, “Defendants”) on behalf of herself and others (“Class” or “Class Members”) who may have a similar claim. In a Class Action lawsuit, one Court makes decisions on behalf of everyone in the Class, if it is possible for it to do so. In this case, the Class Representative is Angela Lopez (“Plaintiff”). The Defendants are Health Management Associates, Inc., Hospital Management Associates, LLC, and Yakima HMA, LLC (together, “Defendants”). You and the other people receiving this notice may be Class Members.
4. What is this lawsuit about?
In this lawsuit, Ms. Lopez alleges that Defendants breached their contracts with indigent patients and violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA) by requesting payments from indigent patients without first informing and screening the patients for charity care. Ms. Lopez, on behalf of the Class, seeks damages for Defendants’ alleged breach of contract and CPA violations. Defendants dispute the allegations. The Court has only ruled that the case could go forward as a class action. The Court has not ruled on whether Defendants breached its contracts or violated the CPA.
5. Is there any money available now?
No, there is no money available at this time and no guarantee that there will be. By establishing the Class and issuing this Notice, the Court is not suggesting that Plaintiff and the Class will win or lose the case. The Plaintiff and the Class still must prove their claims at trial. Trial has not yet been scheduled in this case.
6. What happens if I do nothing at all?
If you are a Class Member, by doing nothing, you automatically stay in the Class. If you stay in the Class, and the Court determines that the Class is entitled to some sort of relief as a result of settlement or trial, you will be notified about how to apply for your share of the money, if any. At that time, you may be required to sign a written authorization to allow appropriate persons access to your PHI. If at any point disclosure of your PHI will be necessary, you will be asked to sign a written authorization to allow appropriate persons to access your PHI. You will not be able to sue Defendants about the same legal claims that are the subject of this lawsuit. Your claims will be decided by the orders and judgment that the Court issues in this class action.
If you are not a Class Member and you do nothing, your rights will not be affected by this lawsuit.
7. Why would I ask to be excluded?
You may ask to be excluded from the lawsuit for any reason, such as if you do not want to be part of a lawsuit against Defendants. Exclude means to remove yourself from the Class, and is sometimes called “opting out” of the Class. If you already have your own lawsuit against Defendants for the same claims and want to continue with it, you need to ask to be excluded from the Class.
If you exclude yourself from the Class, you will not get any money from this lawsuit that the Class obtains as a result of the trial or from any settlement. However, you may then be able to sue or continue to sue Defendants for those same claims. In other words, if you exclude yourself from the Class, you will not benefit from or be legally bound by the Court’s decisions in this class action.
If you start your own lawsuit against Defendants after you decided to exclude yourself, you will have to hire your own lawyer for that lawsuit, and you will have to prove your claims. If you exclude yourself so you can start or continue your own lawsuit against Defendants, you should talk to your own lawyer soon, because your claims may be subject to a statute of limitations.
8. How do I ask the Court to exclude me from the Class?
To ask to be excluded, you must send an “Exclusion Form” by mail, stating that you want to be excluded from Lopez v. Health Management Associates, et al. Be sure to include your name and address and sign the form. You must mail your Exclusion Form postmarked by October 5, 2015, to:
Lopez v. Health Management Associates et al.
1700 – 7th Avenue, Suite 116, #300
Seattle, WA 98101
9. Do I have a lawyer in this case?
The Court decided that the law firms of Columbia Legal Services and Sirianni Youtz Spoonemore Hamburger are qualified to represent you and all Class Members. The law firms are called the “Class Counsel.” They are experienced in handling class action lawsuits. More information about the law firms is available at www.columbialegal.org and www.sylaw.com. Class Counsel do not have access to your PHI simply because you received this notice. Class Counsel may only access your PHI with your prior written authorization, or after notice and a court order, consistent with state and federal privacy laws.
10. How will the lawyers be paid?
If Class Counsel get money for the Class, they may ask the Court for attorneys’ fees and expenses. You will not have to pay these fees and expenses. If the Court grants Class Counsel’s request, the fees and expenses would either be deducted from any money obtained for the Class in this case or paid separately by Defendants.
11. Should I get my own lawyer?
You do not need to hire your own lawyer because Class Counsel is working on your behalf. You may hire your own lawyer and ask him or her to appear in Court for you, if you want someone other than Class Counsel to speak for you. If you do, you will have to pay that lawyer and have the lawyer submit a Notice of Appearance to the Court by no later than October 5, 2015.