Crime victim prevails in court against MRS, says dealing with the company was ‘worse than getting stabbed’
IDAHO FALLS — A stabbing victim who was sued by Medical Recovery Services (MRS) over a billing mistake prevailed in court against the medical debt collection company this week.
In 2014, the Idaho Falls man, who asked EastIdahoNews.com not to identify him, was heading out for a bite to eat when a stranger attacked him and stabbed him four times. He survived, and the Idaho Crime Victims Compensation Program agreed to cover his medical bills. But after a billing error was made, MRS got involved.
“He assumed everything was paid. He didn’t get any further communication until he was sued by (MRS),” Snell & Willmer attorney Doug Farr said.
Snell & Willmer is one of the law firms hired through Idaho Medical Debt, the $1 million fund created by Frank and Belinda VanderSloot to help eastern Idahoans fighting aggressive medical debt collection.
The victim tells EastIdahoNews.com he didn’t receive any notice that he had outstanding medical debt. He had no idea he was being sued until he tried to buy a house and had trouble securing a home loan.
“It was by far one of the worst things. I think it was even worse than when I got stabbed,” the victim said. “I was freaking out (and) trying to figure out where the debt was from.”
The man had also been a victim of identity theft. The person who had stolen his identity was in a car accident and incurred medical debt under the victim’s name. The victim thought the debt might have come from that.
After going back and forth with MRS, he finally learned that the debt was from when he was attacked in 2014.
He said the Intermountain Emergency Physicians billing department told him the bill had been sent to the Idaho Crime Victims Compensation Program but was never paid because the billing department never sent a specific form.
He called MRS and explained what happened only to be told there was nothing they could do, and he would have to pay up.
“I was going back and forth with them for about a week, maybe two weeks,” he said. “They just kept telling me that there was nothing they can do — that I need to hire an attorney or pay the amount that they’re asking for.”
He said MRS continued to pursue the suit even after Intermountain Emergency Physicians called the debt collection company and explained they had made a mistake. The group asked MRS to stop pursuing the suit, according to the victim.
“Then we got involved,” Farr said.
Farr helped the victim file an answer to the lawsuit, worked with Intermountain Emergency Physicians and got the victim’s fund to pay the medical debt. MRS then filed a “motion to dismiss” the case.
MRS is notorious for suing for attorney’s fees once a case is over – sometimes for much more than the original medical debt. However, Farr said only the winning party in a lawsuit can sue for attorney’s fees and in this case, MRS lost.
In an apparent effort to try and get out of paying attorney’s fees to Snell & Willmer, MRS included a condition in its “motion to dismiss” that both parties would bear their own costs. Farr said that meant that Snell & Willmer would not be able to recover their costs from MRS.
On Jan. 22, the court ruled in the victim’s favor and ordered MRS to pay just under $1,000 in attorney’s fees. Farr said MRS could appeal the case, but for now, it’s over.
“It was a big relief for me,” the victim said.
The victim said he was finally able to secure a home loan, and he’s on the path to getting his credit fixed after the damage from the medical debt.
“I just hope that this comes to an end and these guys stop taking advantage of people and treating them unfairly,” he said. “I just really hope that there’s a better outcome to it for other people because it’s super stressful when you get hit with something like that.”
EastIdahoNews.com has reached out to MRS and will update this story when we receive a response.