UPDATE: March 2015

In an important turn of events, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals in Hospital Authority of Clarke County v. Geico General Insurance Co., 294 Ga. 477; 745 S.E. 2nd 358 (2014). Noting that the specific language of OCGA 44-14-473(a) states the one year limitation to enforce a lien begins to run at the time of settlement OR release, the Court held the date the release was signed was the start date. Although the Court, like the Court of Appeals, agreed that the settlement agreement between the parties was enforceable, in this case, the “settlement agreement progressed into a final release…” Id. at 479.   In other words, the start date for the limitations period begins either at the time of settlement or when the release (if any) is signed.

It is safe to assume that virtually all settlements include a requirement that a proper release be executed. Thus, as pointed out by the Court of Appeals, the term ‘’settlement”, for all practical purposes, has been rendered meaningless by the Supreme Court’s decision. However, for medical providers asserting liens, the result is quite favorable.

As an interesting footnote, Justice Nahmias, joined by Justices Hunstein and Blackwell, in a concurring opinion, agreed with the concurring opinion of Judge Boggs, who expressed concern about OCGA 44-14-473(a) not requiring notice be given to a lienholder of a settlement. This, among other issues to be addressed in later blogs, should and needs to be addressed by the Legislature.