Florida courts have issued several recent orders analyzing prior express consent under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in the context of collecting medical debts.  Most recently, on January 10, 2014, the Southern District of Florida issued an order ruling that consent provided to the hospital does not extend to the subcontractor emergency room physicians treating the patient.  Hines v. CMRE Fin. Servs., Inc., 2014 WL 105224 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 10, 2014).  Although the opinion only addresses medical collections, all collectors should review the decision and its potential impact in other contexts.

In Hines, the plaintiff provided his cell phone number on a hospital intake form.  Plaintiff, however, was not treated by the hospital.  Instead, he was treated by the emergency room physicians group, who had contracted with the hospital.  When plaintiff failed to pay the physicians' bill, the physicians group obtained plaintiff's contact information from the hospital and placed plaintiff's account with a collection agency.

The collection agency made over 100 autodialed calls to plaintiff's cell number.  Plaintiff argued the collection agency did not have prior express consent to call his cell phone because he provided his number to only the hospital, not the physicians group.  The court agreed and ruled "the mere provision of [plaintiff's] telephone number to the Hospital upon admission does not constitute express consent to receive calls from a distinct creditor."  Concluding the collection agency called plaintiff's cell phone without consent, the court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff and against the collection agency for $61,500.

What can you do to protect your company?  We recommend you discuss this matter with your healthcare clients and suggest they include consent language in their patient agreements protecting both them and you.  The Sessions Firm has worked with several hospitals and healthcare providers in drafting consent language.  Please call us if you need help.

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