CHRISTOPHER CHAMBERS, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
THE MOSES H. CONE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL; THE MOSES H. CONE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL OPERATING CORPORATION d/b/a MOSES CONE HEALTH SYSTEM and d/b/a CONE HEALTH; and DOES 1 through 25, inclusive, Defendants.
in the Court of Appeals 30 January 2018.
by plaintiff from order entered 16 March 2017 by Chief
Business Court Judge James L. Gale in Guilford County No. 12
CVS 6126 Superior Court.
Higgins Benjamin, PLLC, by John F. Bloss, and Barry L. Kramer
Law Offices, by Barry L. Kramer, Esq., admitted pro hac vice,
Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP, by Philip J. Mohr and
Brent F. Powell, for defendant-appellees The Moses Cone
Memorial Hospital and The Moses Cone Memorial Hospital
the sole representative in a class action lacked a genuine
personal interest in the outcome of the case and the unifying
interests of the class was not temporary or unlikely to be
resolved before the claim was heard, we affirm the trial
court's dismissal of the class action complaint.
August 2011, before receiving treatment for an emergency
procedure at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital (hereinafter
"Moses Cone"), Christopher Chambers (hereinafter
"Chambers") signed Moses Cone's Patient Consent
form. The form stated "I understand that I am
financially responsible for, guarantee and agree to pay in
full, in accordance with the regular rates and terms
of [Moses Cone] at the time of patient's treatment, for
charges for all services provided to me by [Moses Cone] . . .
." (Emphasis added). Moses Cone billed Chambers $14,
578.14 for services rendered and materials provided during
his stay at the hospital. When the bill went uncollected,
Moses Cone sued Chambers and his wife in Guilford County
filed a class action complaint against Moses Cone in Guilford
County Superior Court. Chambers alleged that Moses Cone
charged inflated prices for emergency care services provided
to uninsured patients. Within the hospital industry, a
hospital's list of gross billing rates for products and
services is referred to as a "chargemaster" list.
However, these rates can be negotiated by insurance
companies, managed care organizations, and uninsured patients
seeking elective treatments. Chambers alleged that uninsured
patients seeking emergency care procedures were charged the
chargemaster price for products and services. Chambers argued
that the Moses Cone emergency room Patient Consent Form's
reference to "regular rates and terms" could not be
made certain and were, therefore, governed by contract
principles allowing Moses Cone to recover no more than
"reasonable value" for its services and materials.
Chambers contended that the reasonable value of the services
he received was less than one-half of the amount Moses Cone
charged. Chambers sought relief from Moses Cone under several
theories, including: breach of contract, breach of covenant
of good faith and fair dealing, constructive trust,
declaratory judgment, restitution, and injunction.
Cone answered Chambers's class action complaint and
counter claimed against Chambers and his wife,  as well as the
putative class, seeking relief for unrecovered balances for
the cost of services rendered.
April 2016, Chambers filed an amended class action complaint
seeking only a declaratory judgment that Moses Cone's
Patient Consent form, obligating a patient to pay Moses Cone
"in accordance with the regular rates and
terms" applicable at the time of the patient's
treatment, entitled Moses Cone to no more than the reasonable
value of the treatment or services provided. Moses Cone
subsequently dismissed with prejudice its counterclaims
against Chambers and his wife and also dismissed its district
court action against Chambers and his wife. Moses Cone then
moved to dismiss Chambers's amended class action
complaint with prejudice on the basis of Rule 12(b)(1).
order entered 16 March 2017, the trial court dismissed
Chambers's amended complaint on the basis of mootness:
There was no longer a controversy between the parties, and
the case did not fit within an exception that allowed a moot
claim to proceed. Chambers appeals.
appeal, Chambers argues that the trial court erred by
concluding that Moses Cone's dismissal of its
counterclaims defeated Chambers's right to continue
prosecuting the putative class action. We disagree.
of our Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[i]f
persons constituting a class are so numerous as to make it
impracticable to bring them all before the court, such of
them, one or more, as will fairly insure the adequate
representation of all may, on behalf of all, sue or be
sued." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 23(a) (2017).
[P]rerequisites for bringing a class action . . . [include]
that . . . the named representatives must establish that they
will fairly and adequately represent the interests of all
members of the class; [and] . . . the named representatives
must have a genuine personal ...