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Le v. North Cypress Medical Center Operating Company, Ltd.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

April 4, 2017

THANH LE, Appellant
v.
NORTH CYPRESS MEDICAL CENTER OPERATING COMPANY, LTD AND NORTH CYPRESS MEDICAL CENTER OPERATING COMPANY, GP, L.L.C., Appellees

         On Appeal from the 281st District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2014-39435.

          Panel consists of Justices Boyce, Busby, and Wise.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Ken Wise Justice

         In this suit on a sworn account, the appellant contends that the trial court erred in granting the appellees' motion for traditional and no-evidence summary judgment and ruling that appellant take nothing on his counterclaims. We affirm.

         Background

         Appellant Thanh Le was injured in an accident on December 23, 2010. North Cypress Medical Center (North Cypress) treated Le for his injuries on December 23-24 and 27.[1] On February 3, 2011, North Cypress filed a hospital lien in Harris County to secure Le's debt for the medical services provided as a result of the December 23 accident pursuant to Texas Property Code chapter 55.

         On February 4, 2013, North Cypress filed a sworn release of the hospital lien (the Original Release), in which it averred:

The above named hospital acknowledges payment in full of the above mentioned amount due for treatment, care and maintenance and the hospital hereby releases the claim and lien heretofore filed . . . ."

         In July 2014, North Cypress filed a suit on a sworn account, alleging that Le failed and refused to pay $8, 292.54 for the medical services it provided to him in December 2010.

         Le did not answer the lawsuit or respond to requests for disclosure and admissions, so North Cypress moved for a default judgment. Le, acting pro se, answered with a general denial, but did not answer the requested discovery. North Cypress moved for summary judgment on its sworn account.

         Le then acquired counsel and on February 1, 2016, filed an amended answer, verified denial, affirmative defenses, request for declaratory judgment, and counterclaims for fraud and violation of the Texas Debt Collection Act. In his pleadings, Le argued that the filing of the Original Release acknowledging it received "payment in full" for the amount due for Le's treatment and releasing "the claim and lien" constituted a release of the same debt which it was suing to recover, and therefore North Cypress's claim regarding this debt should be dismissed. Contemporaneously, North Cypress amended its summary judgment motion.

         On February 4, North Cypress filed a sworn amended release of its hospital lien (Amended Release), which deleted the acknowledgment of "payment in full" and the language releasing "the claim" to read simply: "The above named hospital hereby releases the lien heretofore filed . . . ." The Amended Release also adds the following introductory paragraph:

This document hereby amends [the] release of hospital lien document filing #1031012 dated February 4, 2013 and relates back to the time of filing February 4, 2013. The language of the release contained a clerical error. The charges were not paid. The Hospital Lien is being released because there is no third party liability to which the lien can attach.

         Both Le's answer and North Cypress's summary judgment motion were amended again, and the summary judgment motion was submitted in March.

         On March 22, 2016, the trial court signed a "Final Summary Judgment, " concluding that no genuine issue of material fact existed with regard to the claims brought by North Cypress, and that North Cypress was entitled to summary judgment on Le's counterclaims. The court awarded North Cypress $8, 292.54, plus pre-judgment and post-judgment interest and attorney's fees.

         Analysis of Le's Issues

         On appeal, Le presents a single issue broken down into four sub-issues. Le contends that the trial court erred in granting North Cypress's summary judgment motion because: (1) North Cypress did not satisfy its burden to prove the elements of a suit on a sworn account; (2) Le's sworn denial prevented summary judgment from being granted on a suit for a sworn account; (3) North Cypress's Original Release of its hospital lien and the subsequent Amended Release pushed the suit on the sworn account outside the statute of limitations; and (4) the trial court erred in granting the no-evidence portion of the summary judgment. We address each issue in turn.

         Standards ...


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