A Pierce County judge Friday gave preliminary approval to a $7.5 million class-action settlement that would allow the MultiCare Health System to end a dispute with six accident victims.
The six plaintiffs contend the regional health care giant misused the state’s medical lien law to squeeze more money out of them than it could have gotten from billing their insurance plans.
Superior Court Judge Jerry Costello’s decision paves the way for plaintiffs’ attorneys and those representing MultiCare to begin notifying the more than 4,000 people who might benefit from the settlement.
Letters will begin going out, and advertisements will begin appearing next month, spelling out how to submit a claim under the settlement.
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Those people would have a chance to weigh in on the terms of the deal, probably in January, before final court approval would make funds available.
The six patients sued MultiCare in 2013, contending it and one of its contractors improperly filed medical liens against monetary settlements they reached with third parties responsible for their injuries.
State law allows health care providers to file such liens to recoup the costs of care they provide.
But the plaintiffs, who suffered their injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence, said MultiCare ignored their insurance plans and sought money from their court settlements because it was more lucrative.
MultiCare denied wrongdoing and blamed one of its former employees and its contractor for the trouble.
The litigation dragged on for 18 months and exposed some of MultiCare’s hardball billing practices, which brought negative attention to one of Pierce County’s largest employers and health care providers.