DOUGLAS BAUER vs ST. JOSEPHS HOSPITAL, INC.

Case No. 19-CA-10837 IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRTEENTH CIRCUIT COURT, IN AND FOR HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL - CIVIL DIVISION

 

The Court has granted Final Approval to this class action settlement on June 3, 2021.
The Final Approval Order may be found under Important Court Documents.


The Notice sent to you is pursuant to Court Order.  This is not a solicitation from a lawyer

You have been identified as someone who may have a claim regarding alleged hospital overcharges and may be eligible for a monetary payment in a class action settlement.

You received the Notice of Class Action Settlement because you have been identified as a person who received from one or more of the following hospitals emergency medical services that were covered by an automobile Personal Injury Protection (“PIP) insurance coverage: (a) St. Joseph’s Hospital, Inc. d/b/a St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital – North, and St. Joseph’s Hospital – South; (b) Morton Plant Hospital Association, Inc. d/b/a Morton Plant Hospital, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, and Bardmoor Emergency Center; (c) Trustees of Mease Hospital, Inc. d/b/a Mease Countryside Hospital and Mease Dunedin Hospital; (d) St. Anthony’s Hospital, Inc.; (e) Winter Haven Hospital, Inc. d/b/a Winter Haven Women’s Hospital; (f) South Florida Baptist Hospital, Inc.; and/or (g) Bartow Regional Medical Center, Inc. (individually and/or collectively referred to herein as the “Hospitals”). As such, you have been identified as a potential member of the Settlement Class in this class action lawsuit as more fully defined below. 

The Notice explains what the class action lawsuit is about, describes the proposed Settlement Agreement, and tell you what to do if you want to: (a) participate in the Settlement Agreement, (b) object to the Settlement Agreement; or (c) not participate in the settlement and instead “opt out” or exclude yourself from the class action. 

 

YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS AND OPTIONS IN THIS SETTLEMENT

Do Nothing

If you do nothing and the Court approves this Settlement, you will receive a settlement payment. You will not be able to sue Defendant for the same issues as in this lawsuit again.

Ask to be Excluded by April 9, 2021

If you do not want to be included in the case and the Settlement, you must exclude yourself.  This is called “opting out.” This is the only option that allows you to sue Defendant for these same issues.

Object by
April 9, 2021

You may write to the Court about why you don’t like the settlement. You cannot object if you opt out.

YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS ARE AFFECTED WHETHER YOU ACT OR DON’T ACT.  PLEASE READ THE NOTICE CAREFULLY, AND GET MORE INFORMATION IF YOU NEED IT.  THE NOTICE WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET THAT INFORMATION.


Basic Information


1. WHY WAS THE NOTICE SENT TO ME?

The Notice was sent to you because the Hospitals’ records indicate that you received from one or more of the Hospitals, emergency medical services that were covered by automobile personal injury protection (“PIP”) insurance coverage and were charged and/or paid for services without the statutory discount provided to the patient by Section 627.736(5)(a)1.b and 4, Florida Statutes (“Discount Amount”) between October 22, 2014, and December 31, 2020 (the “Class Period”). As such, you are a member of the Settlement Class as further defined below whose rights will be affected by a proposed settlement that has been reached in this class action lawsuit.

The Court ordered this Notice to be sent to you because you have a right to know about the proposed settlement, and your rights and options before the Court decides whether to approve the proposed settlement.

If the Court approves the proposed settlement, and you do not opt-out of the class action, then: (a) if you paid the Hospitals in excess of the Discount Amount, you will receive a payment in the form of a check issued from a Settlement Administrator approved by the Court; or (b) if you did not pay the Hospitals, but were charged in excess of the Discount Amount, all amounts in excess of the Discount Amount will be waived and written off your account.  However, no check or credit will be made until any and all objections or appeals are resolved.


2. WHAT IS THE NOTICE?

The Notice is sent to all Settlement Class Members like you.  The Notice explains the lawsuit, the proposed settlement, your legal rights, what benefits you will receive under the settlement, and how to get more information if you have any questions. 

The Court in charge of this case is the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court, Hillsborough County, Florida, and the case is known as Douglas Bauer v. St. Joseph’s Hospital, et al. Case No:19-CA-010837 Div. L.  The case is brought by the “Named Plaintiff” (or “Plaintiff”), Douglas Bauer, against the Hospitals. 


3. WHAT IS THIS LAWSUIT ABOUT?

This lawsuit involves the manner in which the Hospitals bill their patients who are covered by PIP insurance. The Plaintiff contends that when the Hospitals bill patients covered by PIP insurance, they are required to apply the Discount Amount to those patients.  The Plaintiff contends that in some instances, the Hospitals unlawfully billed their patients in excess of the Discount Amounts.  The Plaintiff brought claims on behalf of himself and all persons in the Settlement Class (as defined below in Answer #5).  The Hospitals expressly deny the Plaintiff’s allegations and any wrongdoing, and assert that their actions and billing practices are correct and legal.  There has been no court decision on the merits of this case and no finding that the Hospitals committed any wrongdoing.


4. WHY IS THERE A SETTLEMENT?

Both sides have agreed to a settlement to avoid the time, costs and risks of a trial, and so that the Settlement Class Members can promptly receive benefits in exchange for releasing the Hospitals from liability.


Settlement Class Membership


5. WHO IS A SETTLEMENT CLASS MEMBER?

You have been identified as a Settlement Class Member.  The “Settlement Class” is defined to include each person who at any time during the Class Period:

(1) received from the Hospital’s emergency medical services and care that were covered by the person's Personal Insurance Protection (“PIP”) insurance governed by Section 627.736, Florida Statutes;

(2) entered into the Hospitals’ standard form Patient Agreement and Consent for Facility Services;

(3) incurred medical bills from the Hospitals for which the person's PIP insurer reduced the Hospitals’ charges to 80% of 75% of the Hospitals’ usual and customary charges pursuant to Section 627.736(5)(a)l.b, Florida Statutes;

(4) were subsequently billed by the Hospitals for the unpaid balance of the Hospitals’ charges that were covered and paid by PIP insurance; and

(5) the Hospitals’ billed charges were without the appropriate adjustment or reduction, to reflect the statutory discount imposed by Section 627.736(5)(a)l.b and 4.

But excluded from the foregoing group are any claims of such persons who, prior to the Opt-Out Deadline: (a)  have been fully resolved through litigation, release, or settlement, including but not limited to those persons who negotiated and settled their balance with the Hospitals for less than the balance that would have been owed had the Hospitals applied the statutory PIP discount; and/or (b) are the subject of any pending litigation against any of the Hospitals.

The “Class Period” is the time period that began on October 22, 2014 and ended on December 31, 2020.


The Settlement Terms and Benefits


6. WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF THE SETTLEMENT?

If you paid the Hospitals in excess of the Discount Amount, the Hospitals have agreed to provide a settlement payment to Settlement Class Members by means of either: (1) payment in the form of a check issued from a Settlement Administrator approved by the Court, or (2) alternatively, if you did not pay, but were charged in excess of the Discount Amount, the Hospitals have agreed that all amounts in excess of the Discount Amount will be waived and written off your account.

For those Class Members who paid the Hospitals, the amount of the settlement payment (i.e., the “Settlement Amount Due”) is calculated as follows: the difference between what the Settlement Class Member paid and the total of the Hospitals’ billed charges that were in excess of the Discount Amount, plus statutory interest at the rate established in Section 55.03(1), Florida Statutes. 

For those Class Members who were charged, but did not pay the Hospitals, all amounts that the Hospitals billed in excess of the Discount Amount shall be waived and written off by the Hospitals, and the Hospitals shall cease and desist from any and all efforts to bill or collect such amounts from such Class Members.

In exchange for this, all Settlement Class Members, will be deemed to have released all claims that Settlement Class Members have had or now have, which were or could have been raised in this Class Action related to alleged charges in excess of the amounts allowed by Section 627.736(5)(a)1.b and 4., Florida Statutes including but not limited to, conduct, policies, or practices concerning the billing or collection of the same.

As part of the settlement, the Hospitals are not subject to any injunctive or declaratory relief, and do not admit liability or wrongdoing of any kind.  However, as of the Effective Date of the Settlement Agreement, the Hospitals have agreed to cease and desist from charging, billing or attempting to collect from PIP insureds any amount in excess of the amount covered by their PIP insurance, except for amounts that are not covered by the insured's PIP coverage due to the coinsurance amount or maximum policy limits, and shall otherwise cease and desist from billing or attempting to collect from any patient any amounts that exceed the maximum amount established by Section 627.736(5)(a)4. If, in the future, Section 627.736(5)(a)4 is amended or repealed, the Hospitals shall only be obligated to comply with the version of the law that is in effect at the time that the Hospitals render medical services to a patient whose medical expenses are covered by PIP insurance.


7. HOW DO I RECEIVE A SETTLEMENT CHECK OR CREDIT?

To receive a settlement payment by check you must be a Settlement Class Member who made a payment to the Hospital in excess of the Discount Amount.  To receive a waiver of debt, you must be a Settlement Class Member who was charged by the Hospital in excess of the Discount Amount but have not paid that amount in full.  All payments and waivers will be reviewed by the Settlement Administrator to confirm their accuracy and will be sent to the Settlement Class Member’s last known address based on the contact information available to the Hospitals.  Therefore, if your address changes before you receive your settlement payment, you need to contact the Settlement Administrator by email at [email protected] or by U.S. mail at Bauer Class Action Settlement, PO Box 23489, Jacksonville, FL 32241. 

All checks remitted to Settlement Class Members that are not negotiated within ninety (90) days after the date of issuance shall be cancelled and such Settlement Class Member will be deemed to have waived any right to payment of the Settlement Amount Due after that ninety (90) day period expires.  Such funds shall instead be paid to charitable legal services organizations. 


8. WHEN WOULD I RECEIVE MY SETTLEMENT CHECK OR WAIVER?

The Court will hold a hearing on June 2, 2021 at 9:30 a.m. to determine whether to approve the Settlement Agreement.  If the Court approves the Settlement Agreement, there may be appeals after that.  If so, there is no way to predict how long it will take to resolve any appeals. If you are to receive a waiver, you will receive written notification of your waiver within thirty (30) days after the date the Settlement Agreement becomes final and effective, i.e., after all appeals, if taken, are finally resolved.  If you are to be paid by check, you will receive your Settlement Amount Due within thirty (30) days after the date the Settlement Agreement becomes final and effective, i.e., after all appeals, if taken, are finally resolved.


9. WHAT AM I GIVING UP TO BE PART OF THE SETTLEMENT CLASS?

If you are a Settlement Class Member and you do not exclude yourself, then you cannot sue, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against the Hospitals about the manner in which the Hospitals charge their patients who are covered by PIP insurance coverage for emergency medical services or any other issues that were or could have been raised in this case relating to such charges.  It also means that all of the Court’s orders concerning the Settlement Class will apply to you and legally bind you, including the Release described in detail in Section 11 of the Settlement Agreement.  You may review and obtain a copy of the Settlement Agreement at  www.bauerclassaction.com, and you are strongly encouraged to review it and the Release therein.  If you are part of the Settlement Class, you may not start a new lawsuit against the Hospitals or any of the Released Parties about the legal issues that were, or could have been raised in this case concerning these charges, ever again.


10. WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO NOTHING?

If you do nothing as a Settlement Class Member, you will receive payment of the Settlement Amount Due by check and/or a waiver of your debt as described in Answer #7 above. 


Excluding Yourself From the Settlement


11. HOW DO I GET OUT OF THE SETTLEMENT?

Because you are receiving this Notice, you have already been determined to be a member of the Settlement Class.  However, you can exclude yourself, or “opt out” of the Settlement Class, if you do not wish to participate.  This means you will receive no payment or credit as part of this settlement.

You cannot ask to be excluded over the phone, by email, or by the internet.  To exclude yourself, you must mail a written request for exclusion to the Settlement Administrator that includes: (1) a statement requesting exclusion from the proposed settlement, such as “I hereby request that I be excluded from the proposed Settlement Class in the Bauer Class Action”; (2) your name, your address, and the case name (Douglas Bauer v. St. Joseph’s Hospital, et al. Case No:19-CA-010837 Div. L (13th Judicial Circuit, Hillsborough County, Florida); and (3) your original signature.  Your written request for exclusion must be post-marked no later than April 9, 2021 and mailed to the Bauer Class Action Settlement, PO Box 23489, Jacksonville, FL 32241. The request for exclusion can only cover one single member of the Settlement Class. You may not seek to “opt out” of the Settlement on behalf of other members of the Settlement Class. 


12. WHAT IF I DO NOT OPT OUT OF THE SETTLEMENT?

Any Settlement Class Member who does not opt out of the Settlement in the manner and by the deadlines described above shall be part of the Settlement Class, shall be bound by the Settlement Agreement (if it is approved by the Court) and all Orders and proceedings in this action, and shall give up the right to sue any of the Released Parties for the claims that are released by the Settlement Agreement.  If you desire to opt out, you must take timely affirmative written action even if you have filed a separate action against, or are a putative class member in any class action against, any of the Released Parties asserting any of the Released Claims as described in Section 11 of the Settlement Agreement.  If you have a pending lawsuit against any of the Hospitals for a disputed charge, please contact your lawyer in that lawsuit immediately.  Remember, the exclusion deadline is April 9, 2021. 


13. IF I EXCLUDE MYSELF, CAN I OBJECT TO THE SETTLEMENT OR RECEIVE MONEY OR A CREDIT FROM THE SETTLEMENT?

No.  If you are a Settlement Class Member and exclude yourself, then you cannot object to the Settlement Agreement, have no right to participate in this settlement, and will not receive any payment under the Settlement Agreement. 


Objecting to the Settlement


14. HOW CAN I OBJECT TO THE SETTLEMENT?

If you do not exclude yourself from, or opt out of, the settlement, you (or your attorney) may object to or comment on all or part of the proposed settlement.  To do so, you (or your attorney on your behalf) must submit a valid and timely objection.

To be valid, your objection must be in writing, personally signed by you, and must include: (a) the case name and number; (b) your name, address, telephone number, and, if represented by counsel, their contact information; (c) the factual and legal basis for your objection; and (d) a statement of whether you intend to appear at the Final Approval Hearing.  If you object and are represented by counsel, your attorney must enter an appearance with the Court.

To be timely, your objection must be filed with and received by the Clerk of Court, with copies mailed to all of the parties identified below, postmarked no later than April 9, 2021.

CLERK OF COURT

CLASS COUNSEL

COUNSEL FOR HOSPITALS

Clerk of Court
Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court
George Edgecomb Courthouse
800 E. Twiggs St.
Tampa, FL 33602

Craig E. Rothburd, Esq.
CRAIG E. ROTHBURD, P.A.
320 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 700
Tampa, FL 33606-1459

and

Scott R. Jeeves, Esq.
JEEVES LAW GROUP, P.A.
954 First Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL  33705

Brian J. Aungst, Jr. Esq.
MACFARLANE FERGUSON & MCMULLEN
625 Court Street, Suite 200
Clearwater, FL  33756

and

Philip E. Rothschild, Esq.
HOLLAND & KNIGHT, LLP
515 E. Las Olas Blvd. Suite 1200
Ft. Lauderdale, FL  33301


The Lawyers Representing You


15. DO I HAVE A LAWYER IN THIS CASE?

The Court has appointed the following lawyers to represent you and all other Settlement Class Members.  Together, these lawyers are called Class Counsel.

Craig E. Rothburd, Esq.
CRAIG E. ROTHBURD, P.A.
320 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 700
Tampa, FL  33606-1459
Telephone:       (813) 251-8800
Email: [email protected]

Scott R. Jeeves, Esq.
JEEVES LAW GROUP, P.A.
954 First Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL  33705
Telephone:       (727) 894-2929
Email:  [email protected]

 
You will not be charged for these lawyers. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.

16. HOW WILL THE CLASS COUNSEL LAWYERS BE PAID?

Class Counsel will ask the Court for attorneys’ fees and expenses up to $275,000.00, and a class representative service award of $10,000 paid to named-plaintiff Douglas Bauer for his time and effort undertaken on behalf of the class in this action.  The Court may award less than these amounts.

The Hospitals will separately pay the attorneys’ fees and expenses, and the class representative service fee that the Court awards, up to maximums of $275,000.00 in fees and expenses and $10,000.00 to named-plaintiff Douglas Bauer for his service as class representative.  These amounts will not reduce the amount of any settlement payments to Settlement Class Members made by check or the waiver of debt.  The Hospitals agreed not to oppose the application by Class Counsel for attorneys’ fees and expenses up to $275,000.00, or the class representative service award of up to $10,00.00 to named-plaintiff Douglas Bauer.    


The Court's Final Approval Hearing


17. WHEN AND WHERE WILL THE COURT DECIDE WHETHER TO APPROVE THE SETTLEMENT?

The Court will hold a Final Approval Hearing before the Honorable Darren D. Farfante, Circuit Court Judge, at 9:30 a.m. on June 2, 2021, via Zoom Meeting ID at 439-383-7898.  At this hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate.  If there are valid and timely objections, the Court will consider them.  The judge will listen to people who have properly asked to speak at the hearing beforehand, and in writing.  After the hearing, the Court will decide whether to approve the Settlement Agreement.  It is uncertain how long it may take for the Court to issue its decision. 


18. AS A SETTLEMENT CLASS MEMBER, MAY I SPEAK AT THE HEARING?

You cannot speak at the hearing if you have excluded yourself from the Settlement Class.  However, if you are part of the Settlement Class, you may ask the Court for permission for you or your attorney to speak at the Final Approval Hearing.  To do so, you must file with the Clerk of Court and serve on all counsel for the parties (at the addresses identified above in Answer # 14) a notice of intention to appear at the Final Approval Hearing.  The notice of intention to appear must include the case name and number; your name, address, telephone number, and signature, and, if represented by counsel, their contact information; identify the name, address, email address, and telephone number of each witness; and copies of any papers, exhibits, or other evidence that you intend to present to the Court in connection with the Final Approval Hearing.  The notice of intention to appear must be filed with and received by the Clerk of Court and served on all counsel no later than April 9, 2021. 

If you do not file a notice of intention to appear in accordance with the deadlines and other specifications set forth in the Settlement Agreement and this Notice, you will not be entitled to appear at the Final Approval Hearing to raise any objections.  If you are represented by counsel and wish for your attorney to speak on your behalf during the Final Approval Hearing, your attorney must enter an appearance with the Court.  


Getting More Information


19. WHERE CAN I GET MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE SETTLEMENT?

The Notice summarizes the lawsuit.  Copies of the Settlement Agreement and the applicable Court orders concerning the Settlement Agreement can be obtained and reviewed at Important Court Documents tab.  To the extent, if any, that the Notice is inconsistent with the Settlement Agreement or the Court’s orders, the terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement and the Court’s orders shall control. 

You may also obtain additional information by contacting the Class Administrator at 866-473-1091, [email protected], or by contacting Class Counsel, as identified above. 

PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT THE COURT OR THE JUDGE REGARDING THE NOTICE.
 


If you would like to update your address with the Class Administrator, please visit the Update Address section on this website.

If you would like to change your name with the Class Administrator, please visit Question 1 under the FAQs section on this website for more information.