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Lee Memorial Takes Case To Florida Supreme Court

Fort Myers News-Press
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Southwest Florida's Lee Memorial Health System is going to the state Supreme Court in a dispute about the constitutionality of part of a 2000 law.

Lee Memorial last week filed a notice indicating it will appeal a decision last month by the 2nd District Court of Appeal striking down the portion of the law. As is common, the notice does not detail the arguments Lee Memorial will make.

The case focused, at least in part, on liens that Lee Memorial used to try to get payment for services provided in 2006 and 2007 to car-accident victim Ruben Gallegos, according to the ruling by a three-judge panel of the appeals court. The 2000 law, which dealt with the duties and powers of Lee Memorial as a public health system, included a provision about the system being able to use liens. But the appeals court, upholding a circuit judge's decision, said that provision is an unconstitutional “special law.”

A section of the Florida Constitution says special laws — which are often narrowly tailored to local issues — cannot allow the imposition of liens on private contracts. While the Fort Myers-based Lee Memorial is a public entity, the appeals court said a contract about Gallego's care was private in nature. The appeals court also agreed with arguments by Progressive Select Insurance Co., which faced a claim from the accident, that the special law unconstitutionally impairs insurers' contractual rights.