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Smith v. Recordquest LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 14, 2019

DAPHNE SMITH, individually and on behalf of a class of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
RECORDQUEST, LLC, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          LYNN ADELMAN, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Wisconsin Statute § 146.83 governs access to patient health care records. The statute provides that if a person requests records and meets certain other requirements, “the health care provider shall provide the person making the request copies of the requested records.” Wis.Stat. § 146.83(3f)(a). The statute also limits the health care provider's ability to charge a fee for providing copies. The statute states that “a health care provider may charge no more than the total of all of the following that apply for providing [the requested copies], ” and then sets out a schedule of permissible fees. Id. § 146.83(3f)(b).

         In the present case, Daphne Smith alleges that she was charged fees in excess of the amount allowed by the statute to obtain her health care records. She proposes to represent a class of similarly situated persons who were also charged excessive fees. The defendant, RecordQuest, LLC, is not a health care provider, but the plaintiff alleges that RecordQuest fulfilled the record requests that she made to her health care provider and sent her invoices containing charges that exceeded the statutory limits. Before me now is RecordQuest's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the allegations of the complaint, which I accept as true for purposes of deciding the motion to dismiss, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident on May 21, 2014. She retained a law firm to represent her in a personal injury claim. The plaintiff signed a release that authorized the law firm to obtain her health care information. The law firm requested the plaintiff's medical records from Milwaukee Health Services, Inc. (“MHS”), one of the plaintiff's medical providers. The law firm sent requests on September 14, 2014, September 17, 2014, and March 30, 2015.

         Although the law firm sent the requests to MHS, the requests were answered by the defendant here, RecordQuest, LLC, which acted “on behalf of MHS.” Compl. ¶ 39. RecordQuest provided the records and then sent a series of invoices to the law firm that allegedly included charges not allowed by Wis.Stat. § 146.83(3f)(b). The law firm paid the invoices. The plaintiff alleges that RecordQuest either knowingly or negligently charged excessive fees, and that therefore it is liable for damages under the civil cause of action created by Wis.Stat. § 146.84(1).

         In addition to alleging a claim under Wis.Stat. § 146.84(1), the plaintiff alleges a claim for unjust enrichment. In this claim, the plaintiff alleges that RecordQuest knew that the invoices contained unlawful charges, that it “appreciated and received the benefit of the money [it] charged illegally, ” and that its retention of the money would be unjust. Compl. ¶¶ 70-72. The plaintiff seeks to have RecordQuest disgorge the illegal charges.

         RecordQuest moves to dismiss the complaint. First, it contends that the claims are barred by the applicable Wisconsin statute of limitations. Second, RecordQuest contends that because it is not a “health care provider” as defined in Wis.Stat. § 146.81(1), it did not violate Wis.Stat. § 146.83(3f)(b) and therefore cannot be liable under Wis.Stat. § 146.84(1). Finally, RecordQuest contends that the plaintiff's claim for unjust enrichment fails as a matter of law.

         II. DISCUSSION

         To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The complaint must, at a minimum, “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In construing a plaintiff's complaint, I assume that all factual allegations are true but disregard statements that are conclusory. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 678.

         Below, I address RecordQuest's argument that it cannot be liable under the health-records statute because it is not a “health care provider.” I also address whether the plaintiff has stated a claim for unjust enrichment. Because I conclude that RecordQuest cannot be liable under the health-records statute and that the plaintiff has not stated a claim for unjust enrichment, I do not consider RecordQuest's argument that the plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations.

         A. RecordQuest is Not Liable Under the Health-Records Statute

         The relevant provisions of the health-records statute apply to “health care providers.” Specifically, Wis.Stat. § 146.83(3f)(a) provides that if a person requests health care records and meets certain other requirements, “the health care provider shall provide the person making the request copies of the requested records.” The statute then states that, with certain exceptions not relevant here, “a health care provider may charge no more than” the specified charges. Wis.Stat. § 146.83(3f)(b).

         The health-records statute has a comprehensive definition of “health care provider.” The definition states that it “means any of the following, ” and then lists nineteen kinds of licensed medical providers and associations of licensed medical providers. Wis.Stat. § 146.81(1). The plaintiff does not allege that RecordQuest is one of these nineteen specified entities. Indeed, the plaintiff concedes that RecordQuest is not a health care provider as defined by the statute. Instead, she argues that ...


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