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Iala Suarez v. Port Charlotte HMA, LLC, Case No. 2D14-2627 (2nd DCA)

The plaintiff in Suarez appealed the trial court’s determination that it lacked jurisdiction to resolve a dispute between the plaintiff and the Agency for Health Care Administration regarding the amount ACHA was entitled to recover for past medical expenses from the plaintiff’s settlement with a third-party defendant in her medical malpractice action. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice action seeking damages for the permanent and catastrophic injuries sustained by her daughter during birth. On February 14, 2014, the plaintiff petitioned the trial court to approve a settlement with one of the defendants. The trial court approved the settlement on April 3, 2014, and the order approved the guardian ad litem’s recommendation to allocate $4,129.71 for past medical expenses. On April 28, 2014, the plaintiff filed a motion for determination of Medicaid lien, asking the trial court to order ACHA to accept the court’s allocation from the settlement. The trial court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over the dispute between the plaintiff and ACHA. The plaintiff appealed.

The Second District noted that Fla. Stat. 409.910 was amended in 2013 to add subsection 17(b), which outlines a procedure by which a recipient of Medicaid may contest the amount designated as recovered medical expense damages payable to ACHA pursuant to paragraph 11(f). Prior to the amendment, recipients were able to challenge the amount of a settlement designated as a recovery for past medical expenses by motion to the circuit court. The plaintiff argued that the amendment was a substantive change in the law, and therefore, should not apply retroactively to her case, which was filed prior to the effective date of the amendments. The Second District disagreed. The Second District explained that ACHA had no right to reimbursement until a settlement was reached. It is the recovery of third-party benefits that causes ACHA’s right to recovery to vest. Therefore, prior to the 2014 settlement, ACHA had no right to recover. As such, the amended statute controls. The Second District noted, however, that the plaintiff may pursue her challenges through the administrative proceeding outlined in Fla. Stat. 409.910.

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