Case over copying fees charged by WVU Hospitals sent back to Monongalia court

By Kyla Asbury | Oct 23, 2013

CLARKSBURG - A lawsuit against West Virginia University Hospitals has been remanded back to Monongalia Circuit Court because the amount in controversy wasn't enough.

A memorandum opinion and order granting the plaintiff's motion to remand the case back to Monongalia Circuit Court was filed on Oct. 3.

"The plaintiff has alleged that the defendant overcharged him $503.40, after subtracting the finding fee and the $1 for the compact disc cost. Because of the amount charged by WVUH, the plaintiff claims that WVUH has violated West Virginia code," the memorandum opinion filed by U.S. District Judge Frederick P. Stamp Jr. states.

Because the case can be remanded based on the amount in controversy element, Stamp declined to discuss the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 exceptions that the plaintiff had set forth in his motion to remand and the defendant addressed in its briefing.

Stamp ordered the case to be remanded to Monongalia Circuit Court, dismissed from federal court and stricken from the active docket of the federal court.

Christopher Thomack was a patient of the defendant in 2012 and on July 31, 2012, through his attorney, Thomack requested additional records that were not previously produced by the defendant, the suit says.

The defendant responded via a letter stating that payment of $514.40 would be required before it would provide copies of Thomack's medical records, according to a complaint filed earlier this year in Monongalia Circuit Court.

Thomack claimed the defendant demanded 40 cents per page to produce his medical records, plus a $10 search fee and because his medical records contained 1,261 pages, the defendant charged the $514.40 fee for him to obtain his medical records.

The defendant did not produce any paper documents and instead produced one CD/DVD containing Thomack's medical records, according to the suit.

Thomack claimed the defendant violated West Virginia code by demanding 40 cents per image of medical records plus the $10 search fee.

"The requested records were maintained electronically by the defendant. The documents were produced on a single CD/DVD, which costs less than one dollar each," according to the suit.

Thomack claimed to the degree the defendant claimed that it took time or effort to search for the appropriate medical records to download for each patient, that cost is covered by the search fee, which, pursuant to statute, may not exceed $10.

Upon information and belief, the 40 cents per image charged by the defendant was not related to the "expenses incurred" by the defendant in producing each patient's medical records on a CD/DVD, according to the suit.

Thomack claimed other similarly situated individuals who requested copies of their medical records from the defendant during the five years preceding this lawsuit, were also charged 40 cents per page, plus a $10 search fee, to obtain copies of their medical records from the defendant, which did not represent "the reasonable expenses incurred" in complying with West Virginia code.

The defendant violated West Virginia code by refusing to produce the medical records unless payments exceeding the amount permitted under West Virginia code were made to the defendant, according to the suit.

Thomack was seeking compensatory damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He was being represented by David E. Goddard and Edmund L. Wagoner of Goddard & Wagoner.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia at Clarksburg case number: 1:13-cv-00031

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