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Guzman v. U S West

August 19, 2003

ANISSA MARIA GUZMAN, A MINOR, BY REBECCA Z. LOSOYA, HER GUARDIAN, APPELLANT, ALICIA ROSE LOSOYA, APPELLANT,
v.
U S WEST, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, RESPONDENT,
BRIAN J. ANDERSON, DEFENDANT,
v.
LINDSAY MEREDITH MAILER, ET AL., THIRD PARTY DEFENDANTS.



Ramsey County District Court File No. C6006157

Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

When, as a condition for receiving medical assistance, the recipient assigns to the state "any rights to medical support and third party payments" under Minn. Stat. §á256B.056, subd. 6 (2002), the rights to payment of future medical expenses are included in the assignment.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

Appellants Anissa Guzman, by her guardian Rebecca Z. Losoya, and her mother, Alicia Losoya, brought a personal injury action against respondent U S West, Inc.*fn1 and its employee for injuries suffered by Anissa. The state provided medical assistance to Anissa; and as a condition for receipt of the assistance, Anissa's mother assigned all of Anissa's "rights to medical support and third party payments" as a condition of her eligibility for medical assistance. The state filed a medical-assistance lien and later settled all its claims against UáSáWest. Appellants then settled their remaining claims against U S West, except their claim for future medical expenses. The district court granted U S West's motion to dismiss on this remaining claim. It ruled that as a condition of receiving medical assistance, appellants had assigned their claims for all medical expenses, including future medical expenses, to the state, which then extinguished those claims by settling with U S West. Appellants argue that the district court erred as a matter of law because appellants did not assign to the state the right to recover future medical expenses. We affirm.

FACTS

On May 26, 2000, appellant Anissa Guzman, age seven, was struck and injured by a motor vehicle while trying to cross the street from behind an illegally parked U S West truck. She and her mother sued U S West and the driver of the truck. Anissa suffered permanent injuries, including brain damage. Experts predicted that the lifetime cost of her care would be in excess of $5.7 million, with the present value of her future medical needs estimated at more than $3.5 million.

Anissa did not have medical insurance at the time of the accident and her mother was unable to pay her medical expenses. Her mother applied for and obtained medical assistance from the state and, as a condition of eligibility, assigned to the state "any rights to medical support and third party payments." Minn. Stat. §á256B.056, subd. 6 (2002). The state filed a medical-assistance lien on any cause of action arising out of the accident. As of March 28, 2002, the state had made medical payments on behalf of Anissa in the amount of $328,680.49.

On April 2, 2002, the state settled with U S West for the sum of $315,000. The letter from the state to U S West confirming this settlement stated:

This will confirm that Qwest Corporation, formerly known as U S West, has settled all claims/interests, past, present and future, of the State of Minnesota (including, but not limited to, the Department of Human Services) with regard to the above-referenced matter for the sum of $315,000. It is also agreed that upon receipt of the check the State of Minnesota, through its authorized representative, will sign an unqualified general release of U S West/Qwest for all claims, past, present and future, known and unknown.

Appellants were neither contacted nor asked to consent to this settlement. Appellants then reached a separate settlement with U S West for their remaining claims arising from the accident, except the claim for future medical expenses.

U S West moved to dismiss appellants' remaining claim for future medical expenses. The district court ruled that Anissa's mother had assigned the right to claims for all medical expenses, including future medical expenses, recoverable from third parties, to the state. The district court held that the state extinguished its claim for all future medical expenses against U S West when it settled with U S West. Consequently, it ...


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