United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
ELIAJALYN NAZARIO, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNT SERVICES, INC. and LEHIGH HMA, LLC d/b/a LEHIGH REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER 
POLSTER CHAPPELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. #45) filed on February 14, 2017. Plaintiff
Eliajalyn Nazario (Plaintiff or Nazario) filed a response in
opposition (Doc. #48) on March 15, 2017. For the reasons set
forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in
liens act as a claim against a personal injury recovery that
a former patient might recover from a tortfeasor that caused
the patient's injuries. The liens are an effort by
hospitals to get paid for the services they provide. The
Florida Hospital Lien Act was enacted in 1951 and repealed in
1971, but liens may now exist by virtue of a county
ordinance. See Palm Springs General Hospital,
Inc. of Hialeah v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 218
So.2d 793 (Fla. 3d DCA 1969), decision aff'd,
232 So.2d 737 (Fla. 1970) (decided under the Hospital Lien
Act, enacted in 1951 and repealed in 1971 but later adopted
as a Dade County ordinance); Shands Teaching Hosp. and
Clinics, Inc. v. Mercury Ins. Co. of Florida, 97 So.3d
204 (Fla. 2012). This case involves whether Defendants had
the authority to file hospital liens for Plaintiff's (and
others) unpaid hospital charges.
about November 7, 2015, Nazario was injured in a motor
vehicle accident and treated at Lehigh Regional Medical
Center. (Doc. #37, ¶¶ 22-23). Lehigh Regional
apparently billed Plaintiff $3, 374.68 for the medical
services she was provided. On January 11, 2016, Lehigh
Regional, through Defendant Professional Account Services,
Inc. (PASI), which is a debt collection agency, filed a
“Notice of Hospital Lien” against Allstate
Insurance for the services provided to Nazario at Lehigh
Regional in the amount of $3, 374.68 in the official records
of Lee County, Florida. (Doc. #37, Ex. A, “the
Lien”). The Lien was subsequently mailed to Plaintiff
with a cover letter. (Id. at ¶ 29).
alleges that Defendants created and filed hospital liens
against Lehigh Regional's former patients'
third-party liability or other insurance benefits to collect
on outstanding debts owed for the hospital's services
without the statutory authority to do so. On October 18,
2016, Plaintiff filed a nine-count Class Action Complaint
(Doc. #1), and is currently proceeding on a nine-count Second
Amended Complaint (Doc. #37), alleging that the hospital
liens constitute an attempt to collect a debt in violation of
the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, Fla. Stat.
§ 559.55 et seq. (FCCPA); the Florida Deceptive
and Unfair Trade Practices Act, Fla. Stat. § 501.201
et seq. (FDUTPA); and the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.
information and belief, Nazario alleges that it is
Defendants' routine practice to treat a patient, and then
file a lien. (Doc. #37, ¶ 25). Plaintiff alleges that
these liens are “counterfeit” and
“illegal” because only non-profit, public
hospitals operated by Lee Memorial Health System (which
Lehigh Regional is not) are legally authorized to file
hospital liens pursuant to a special act - Lee County's
hospital lien act, Ch. 78-552, §§ 1-7, at 185-87,
Laws of Fla. For Lee Memorial Health Sys. (Id. at
¶ 1). Plaintiff believes that Defendants have made
hundreds, if not thousands, of similar communications in an
attempt to collect consumer debts from Florida consumers.
(Id. at ¶ 32). Therefore, Nazario files this
suit on behalf of a class consisting of:
(i) all Florida citizens (ii) who were the subject of a
counterfeit lien recordation by LEHIGH REGIONAL and/or
PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNT SERVICES, INC. (iii) in an attempt to
collect a debt incurred for medical bills (iv) during the
five year period prior to the filing of the original
complaint in this action through the date of class
(Id. at ¶ 35).
move to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted on multiple grounds. First, and
most importantly, Defendants assert that Plaintiff's
jurisdictional allegations are deficient. Defendants state
that Plaintiff alleges diversity, federal question, and
supplemental jurisdiction, none of which is applicable or
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Rule 12(b)(1) motion, a claim's subject matter
jurisdiction may be challenged both facially and factually.
McMaster v. United States, 177 F.3d 936, 940 (11th
Cir. 1999). According to the Eleventh Circuit, in cases such
as this, facial attacks “require the court merely to
look and see if the plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a
basis of subject matter jurisdiction, and the allegations in
his complaint are taken as true.” Id.
alleges one count of a violation of federal law against PASI
- the FDCPA (Count 3) - and the remaining eight counts allege
violations of Florida's counterpart to the FDCPA, the
FCCPA, as well as violations of FDUTPA. The Court clearly
has federal question jurisdiction over the FDCPA claim, and
may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining
state law claims “that are so related to claims in the
action within [the court's] original jurisdiction that
they form part of the same case or controversy under Article
III of the United States Constitution.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1367(a). Such power arises where the state and federal
claims “derive from a common nucleus of operative
fact” and “are such that [the plaintiff] would
ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial
proceeding.” United Mine Workers of America v.
Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (11th Cir. 1966). A state cause
of action which requires more proof than the federal claim is
still within the court's supplemental jurisdiction if
“both claims clearly arise from the same set of
facts.” Milan Exp., Inc. v. Averitt Exp.,
Inc., 208 F.3d 975, 980 (11th Cir. 2000);
Tamiami Partners, Ltd. ex rel. Tamiami Dev.
Corp. v. Miccosukee Tribe of Fla., 177 F.3d 1212,
1223-24 (11th Cir. 1999).
power, however, “need not be exercised in every case in
which it is found to exist, ” as supplemental
jurisdiction is a “doctrine of discretion, not of
plaintiff's right.” Gibbs, 383 U.S. at
726. “The breadth of discretion afforded federal courts
in these cases has been codified by section 1367(c), ”
which “provides for four occasions when a federal court
may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction otherwise
within its power.” Palmer, 22 F.3d at 1569.
district courts may decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over a claim under subsection (a) if - (1) the
claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law, (2) the
claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims
over which the district court has original jurisdiction, (3)
the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has
original jurisdiction; or (4) in ...