Business Law

Torres v. Adventist Health System/West (Apr. 14, 2022, F081415) __ Cal.App.5th __ [2022 WL 1115068]

Nondisclosure of hospitalā€™s emergency room evaluation and management fee does not violate the Consumer Legal Remedies Act.

Kasondra Torres filed a class action lawsuit against Hanford Community Hospital, seeking declaratory relief that the hospitalā€™s nondisclosure of its intent to charge a $3,200 emergency room evaluation and management service (EMS) fee, in addition to fees for each treatment and service provided, violated the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). Torres argued that Hanfordā€™s concealment of the EMS fee violated the CLRA for two reasons: (1) it had exclusive knowledge of material facts regarding that fee, which were not known or reasonably accessible to her, and (2) it actively concealed the fee. The trial court granted Hanfordā€™s motion for judgment on the pleadings, ruling that Hanford owed no duty to disclose the EMS fee under the CLRA. Torres appealed. 

The Court of Appeal affirmed.  Although Torres adequately alleged her lack of reasonable access to the facts that triggered Hanfordā€™s imposition of an EMS fee and Hanfordā€™s fee-setting formula, Torres failed to adequately allege that she relied on not being billed an EMS fee. In other words, she did not claim that she would have sought treatment elsewhere had Hanford disclosed the EMS fee. Accordingly, Torres failed to sufficiently allege a CLRA violation under the exclusive knowledge criterion. The court also held that Torres failed to sufficiently allege active concealment by Hanford because she alleged only a disclosure omission, rather than any affirmative act to conceal information.

The bulletin describing this appellate decision was originally prepared for the California Society for Healthcare Attorneys (CSHA) by H. Thomas Watson and Peder K. Batalden, who are partners at the appellate firm Horvitz & Levy LLP, and is republished with permission.

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