Judge rules in favor of county over disputed hospital billing

City will appeal judge’s ruling in case

    District Court Judge David W. Urbom ruled in favor of Chase County and declared the city of Imperial is responsible for a $436 hospital bill stemming from a Dec. 24 arrest by Imperial’s police department.
    But the matter remains far from settled.
    Imperial City Clerk Jo Leyland said Tuesday Mayor Dwight Coleman gave the go-ahead to appeal the ruling to the Nebraska Court of Appeals.
    Urbom filed his decision, granting the county’s motion for summary judgment on Friday.
    Leyland said the situation involves much more than who’s responsible for paying a $436 hospital bill.
    City Attorney Josh Wendell said they believe there are conflicting statutes dealing with duties and responsibilities of a jail when someone is taken into custody.
    He said he cited those differences in the brief submitted to Judge Urbom on behalf of the city.
     While it might seem frivolous to the public to appeal the decision at a cost of $3,000, Wendell said the case could have far-reaching implications in the future.
    What the city is asking for on appeal, he said, is an interpretation of the legislative intent of those statutes. To his knowledge, Wendell said no such interpretation by a higher court has ever been made.
    He said other governmental agencies have faced the same issue of who is responsible for payment of medical expenses. As a result, this case will be closely followed, he noted.

Whose responsibility?

    The disagreement over the issue stemmed from a Dec. 24 arrest by the city of Imperial Police Department.
    The city police took the suspect to the county jail. However, the jailer requested the suspect be checked over by a doctor before incarceration.
    That examination, which concluded the patient was medically cleared to be jailed, cost $436.
    The person taken into custody is responsible for payment of the bill. If that person does not have the means to pay the bill, the liability shifts to the governmental agency deemed to be responsible.

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