Jan 25, 2022 – A recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in a lawsuit over charges for medical records renders moot a circuit court’s class certification in a similar lawsuit, the supreme court has ruled.
Rave v. SVA Healthcare Services, LLC, 2022 WI 3, ___ Wis. 2d ___, ___ N.W.2d ___, the supreme court ruled that relief for Timothy Rave and the other members of the class – all patients claiming that they’d been overcharged for copies of medical records – was foreclosed by its decision in
Townsend v. ChartSwap, LLC, 2021 WI 86, 399 Wis. 2d 599, 967 N.W.2d 21.
Townsend, the supreme court held that the limit in
Wis. Stat. section 146.83(3f)(b) on fees charged for medical records applied only to “health care providers.” Because ChartSwap was a medical records retrieval company and not a health care provider, it was not subject to the statutory fee limit, the court held.
Circuit Court Certified Class
Like Townsend, Rave claimed that SVA Healthcare Services (SVA) had violated section 146.83(3f)(b) by charging fees for medical records in excess of the amounts allowed under the statute.
Jeff M. Brown is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by
email or by phone at (608) 250-6126.
The circuit court certified a class and appointed Rave as class representative. SVA appealed.
In April 2021, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s order, and SVA appealed to the supreme court.
After the supreme court issued the
Townsend decision, Rave filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, to stay the matter.
In his motion, Rave acknowledged that his underlying claims were rendered moot by
Townsend because SVA was a medical records retrieval firm like ChartSwap.
In its response to Rave’s motion, SVA agreed that
Townsend rendered moot Rave’s claims.
But its appeal was not moot, SVA argued, because there were other pending cases challenging charges for medical records in which class certification was at issue.
That meant, SVA argued, that addressing the class certification issue met two exceptions to the mootness doctrine: one that applies when a situation arises so often that a decision is necessary to guide trial courts, and one that applies when an issue that’s likely to come up again should be resolved to eliminate uncertainty.
All Issues are Moot
In a per curiam opinion, the supreme court agreed with Rave that his underlying claims were made moot by
Townsend, as well as the claims of the other class members.
Townsend mooted the claims of each member of the class, the issue of class certification was also moot.
“It is true, as SVA points out in its response to Rave’s motion, that we may overlook mootness when a case presents questions that are recurring or likely to recur, and that signal a need for guidance and certainty,” the supreme court wrote.
“But SVA does not meaningfully explain what essential guidance would be provided, or what uncertainty would be avoided, if we were to continue with this appeal and further discuss the propriety of class litigation of a claim made under a statute that does not, by its terms, apply to SVA, as
Townsend makes clear and both parties now agree.”