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Albright v. Good Samaritan Society -Denton Village

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

April 20, 2017

PAMELA A. ALBRIGHT APPELLANT
v.
GOOD SAMARITAN SOCIETY -DENTON VILLAGE APPELLEE

         FROM COUNTY COURT AT LAW NO. 2 OF DENTON COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO. CV-2015-02345

          PANEL: MEIER, GABRIEL, and SUDDERTH, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          LEE GABRIEL JUSTICE

         Appellant Pamela A. Albright appeals from the trial court's order granting Appellee Good Samaritan Society - Denton Village's motion for traditional summary judgment. We modify the judgment and affirm as modified.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Good Samaritan sued Albright on a sworn account and, alternatively, for breach of contract and quantum meruit, alleging that Albright had agreed to pay for room, board, and other services; that it had provided those services to her; and that she had not paid for those services as agreed. To its petition, Good Samaritan attached a copy of an admission agreement between it and Albright; a copy of a billing statement dated October 20, 2015, reflecting that Albright had an amount due of $6, 471.93; and an affidavit of its records custodian, Michael Larson.

         The admission agreement provided that Good Samaritan would furnish Albright with "room, board, required nursing care, dietary services, an activities program . . . room/bed maintenance and housekeeping services, basic personal laundry services, medically related social services, and other services required by law" in exchange for the payment of a daily rate. It reflects that Good Samaritan admitted Albright as a Medicare patient under payment terms providing that Medicare would pay for the expenses she incurred through the first twenty days of her stay. Beginning on the twenty-first day, the payment terms provided that Albright was responsible to pay a daily coinsurance rate set by Medicare in the amount of $152.00.

         The billing statement reflected that Good Samaritan admitted Albright on November 14, 2014, and discharged her on January 27, 2015, and it showed two charges: first, an undated "balance forward" amount of $6, 419.76; and second, an interest charge of $52.17 for a date of service from November 14, 2014, through January 27, 2015. Additionally, the billing statement contained the following note:

UHC HAS ASSIGNED A PATIENT RESPONSIBILITY AMOUNT OF [$]3, 192.00 FOR DEC[.] 2014, AND [$]3, 071.25 FOR JAN[.] 2015[.] THESE AMOUNTS ARE NOW DUE FROM YOU PRIVATELY[.] THANK YOU.

         Good Samaritan filed a motion for traditional summary judgment, attaching as summary-judgment evidence the admission agreement, billing statement, and Larson's affidavit, as well as the affidavit of its attorney, Gregory J. Sawko. See Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(a), (c). Albright did not file a response. Without specifying the basis for its ruling, the trial court granted Good Samaritan's motion and awarded it $4, 384.18 in damages and $4, 000 in attorney's fees for attorney services rendered through trial. The trial court also awarded Good Samaritan conditional attorney's fees of $6, 000 in the event it became necessary for Good Samaritan to defend any post-trial motions or appear at any related hearings, of $6, 000 in the event Albright appealed to this court, and of $6, 000 in the event she appealed to the supreme court. In three issues, Albright appeals.

         II. SUMMARY-JUDGMENT BURDEN

         To prevail on its motion for traditional summary judgment, Good Samaritan had the burden to prove that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(c); Mann Frankfort Stein & Lipp Advisors, Inc. v. Fielding, 289 S.W.3d 844, 848 (Tex. 2009). Albright filed no response to Good Samaritan's motion, but she was not required to because a nonmovant has no burden to respond to a motion for traditional summary judgment unless the movant conclusively establishes its cause of action or defense. See Rhone-Poulenc, Inc. v. Steel, 997 S.W.2d 217, 222-23 (Tex. 1999). Thus, a trial court may not grant traditional summary judgment by default simply because the nonmovant did not file a response. Id. at 223; Rockwell v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 02-12-00100-CV, 2012 WL 4936619, at *4 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth Oct. 18, 2012, no pet.) (mem. op.). Even when the nonmovant fails to file a response, the movant still carries the burden to establish its right to summary judgment with legally sufficient evidence. See Rhone-Poulenc, Inc., 997 S.W.2d at 223; Rockwell, 2012 WL 4936619, at *3.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We review a summary judgment de novo. Travelers Ins. Co. v. Joachim, 315 S.W.3d 860, 862 (Tex. 2010). We take as true all evidence favorable to the nonmovant, and we indulge every reasonable inference and resolve any doubts in the nonmovant's favor. 20801, Inc. v. Parker, 249 S.W.3d 392, 399 (Tex. 2008); Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Knott, 128 S.W.3d 211, 215 (Tex. 2003). We consider the evidence presented in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, crediting evidence favorable to the nonmovant if reasonable jurors could and disregarding evidence contrary to the nonmovant unless reasonable jurors could not. Mann Frankfort, 289 S.W.3d at 848. We must consider whether reasonable and fair-minded jurors could differ in their conclusions in light of all of the evidence presented. See Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Spates, 186 S.W.3d 566, 568 (Tex. 2006); City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 822-24 (Tex. 2005).

         Because the trial court did not specify the grounds for its summary judgment here, we must affirm the summary judgment if any of the grounds Good Samaritan presented in its summary-judgment motion are meritorious. See Provident Life, 128 S.W.3d at 216.

         IV. GOOD SAMARITAN'S ...


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