Healthcare News & Insights

Hospital sues patient for $350k — while she’s still in the hospital

No one would blame a hospital for seeking payment for its services. But perhaps it’s best to wait for patients to be discharged before serving them with papers. That’s the lesson learned last week by Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia.

A 60-year-old woman, Elaine Harnsberger, was admitted to the hospital on March 31 with “serious medical problems” — and had racked up bills in excess of $350k by July 27. On Aug. 9th, Carilion’s attorney Robert Manetta filed suit, and specifically requested in a letter to the court that “the Sheriff serve Mrs. Harnsberger at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.”

Harnsberger was served, in her bed at Carilion.

One day after the Roanoake Times questioned hospital officials about the case, they filed a motion to have the suit dismissed.

Harnsberger declined reporters’ interview requests, and Carilion wouldn’t say if Harnsberger had insurance and/or the financial means to pay the bill.

Had the suit gone forward, Harnsberger would’ve had 21 days to respond — from her hospital bed, and with limited access to legal assistance. Presumably, she is currently in no condition to go over the bill for potential errors or inaccuracies. If Harnsberger didn’t respond in the allotted time, Carilion likely would’ve been allowed to go after her existing assets and wages.

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