STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA, EX REL. HEALTHPORT TECHNOLOGIES, LLC and CHARLESTON AREA MEDICAL CENTER, Petitioners
HONORABLE JAMES C. STUCKY, Judge of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia; and BASIL CROOKSHANKS, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Respondents
Submitted: May 3, 2017
for Writ of Prohibition
G. Ramey, Esq. Steptoe & Johnson PLLC Huntington, West
Virginia Russell D. Jessee, Esq. Devon J. Stewart, Esq.
Steptoe & Johnson PLLC Charleston, West Virginia Counsel
for the Petitioners.
L. Wagoner, Esq. David E. Goddard, Esq. Goddard & Wagoner
PLLC Clarksburg, West Virginia Counsel for Respondent Basil
JUSTICE DAVIS and JUSTICE WORKMAN dissent and reserve the
right to file a separate opinion.
BY THE COURT
"A writ of prohibition will not issue to prevent a
simple abuse of discretion by a trial court. It will only
issue where the trial court has no jurisdiction or having
such jurisdiction exceeds its legitimate powers. W.Va. Code
53-1-1." Syllabus Point 2, State ex rel. Peacher v.
Sencindiver, 160 W.Va. 314, 233 S.E.2d 425 (1977).
"Standing is comprised of three elements: First, the
party attempting to establish standing must have suffered an
"injury-in-fact"-an invasion of a legally protected
interest which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b)
actual or imminent and not conjectural or hypothetical.
Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury
and the conduct forming the basis of the lawsuit. Third, it
must be likely that the injury will be redressed through a
favorable decision of the court." Syllabus Point 5,
Findley v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 213 W.Va.
80, 576 S.E.2d 807 (2002).
case, a law firm paid an invoice for a copy of a client's
medical records. The law firm alleges the per-page-fee for
those records was excessive under state law. However, the law
firm filed a lawsuit in circuit court over the invoice in the
name of the client. As we find below, because the client did
not pay the invoice and has suffered no personal loss caused
by the allegedly illegal fee, the client cannot show an
injury in fact. The client, therefore, did not have standing
to pursue the lawsuit. Consequently, we grant a writ of
prohibition and direct the circuit court to dismiss the
lawsuit without prejudice.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
2015, respondent Basil Crookshanks had abdominal surgery for
a perforated bowel. In his recovery, he was a patient in a
nursing home. Mr. Crookshanks alleges that the nursing home
used unsterilized tools to treat his wound causing him to
develop significant infections and sepsis. Thereafter, he was
evacuated from the nursing home by helicopter for inpatient
treatment at a hospital owned by the petitioner, Charleston
Area Medical Center ("CAMC").
Crookshanks retained a law firm to investigate a potential
malpractice claim against the nursing home. The law
firm's contract was on a contingent basis: the firm would
pay all litigation expenses (as permitted by the West
Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct) and would only
receive a fee, and be reimbursed for its expenses, if there
was a recovery on Mr. Crookshanks's behalf.
firm made a request to CAMC for a copy of Mr.
Crookshanks's medical records. Petitioner HealthPort
Technologies, LLC ("HealthPort"), responded for
CAMC and sent an invoice to the law firm demanding $4,
463.43, or 55 cents per page plus sales tax and shipping
costs for the medical records. The law firm paid the invoice.
However, the invoice troubled the law firm for two reasons:
another major West Virginia hospital had charged the law firm
$3.57 to copy a similar medical record; and the law firm
itself spends approximately 1.4 cents per page for copying.
October 15, 2015, Mr. Crookshanks filed a class action
lawsuit against HealthPort and CAMC over the 55-cent-per-page
fee for his medical records. First, Mr. Crookshanks alleged
that the fee was not based on the actual cost of labor and
supplies, as required by state law,  and therefore that
HealthPort and CAMC were acting in violation of law. Second,
Mr. Crookshanks asserted (upon information and belief) that
other similarly-situated individuals requested their records
from CAMC and other West Virginia healthcare providers; that
HealthPort filled those requests; and that HealthPort charged
those individuals excessive fees in violation of state law.
In his complaint, Mr. Crookshanks asked the circuit court to
certify his case as a class action.
and CAMC moved for summary judgment on the ground that,
because Mr. Crookshanks's claims were not ripe, he did
not have standing to pursue his claim. In discovery, Mr.
Crookshanks admitted that he did not pay the invoice to
obtain copies of his medical records. Instead, the law firm
he retained paid the invoice. Additionally, Mr. Crookshanks
has not reimbursed the law firm, and the contract with his
lawyers specified that he would only be liable for the
expense of the medical records if he recovers from a medical
malpractice defendant. HealthPort and CAMC asked the circuit
court to dismiss Mr. Crookshanks's claims without
order dated December 14, 2016, the circuit court denied the
motion for summary judgment, and found that Mr. Crookshanks
could pursue a claim for the allegedly excessive costs of the
medical records. On January 13, 2017, HealthPort and CAMC
petitioned this Court for a writ of prohibition to ...