Plaintiff, Samantha Dauzart (Dauzart), sustained injuries in an automobile accident with Lynn Byers (Byers), who was insured by Financial Insurance Indemnity Company (Financial). The limits of the Financial policy were deposited into the registry of the court thus invoking a concursus proceeding. Dauzart's attorney and CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital (St. Frances) filed motions to withdraw funds subject to their alleged liens on the funds. The trial court recognized the primacy of the attorney's privilege but granted exceptions of prescription and no cause of action filed by Dauzart with respect to St. Frances' claim to the funds. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court's judgment.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Dauzart was injured in an automobile accident on August 8, 2005. In connection with the accident, she sought treatment from St. Frances. She incurred charges in the amount of $8,095.25 for said treatment.
Dauzart filed suit against Byers and Financial seeking to recover damages for injuries sustained in the automobile accident. Byers and Financial filed separate motions to deposit funds into the registry of the court. These motions specifically recognized that "any and all liens of health care providers, including, but not limited to Dr. Gerald Leglue, Christus S. Frances Cabrini Hospital, ... will be obligated to present their claims before this Court to determine the extent and existence of any liens and a division of the funds between the parties, plaintiffs counsel, and various lienholders." The order allowing the deposit of $12,809.73 into the registry of the court was signed March 16, 2009. The order allowing the deposit of $700.00, plus future payments of $250.00 per month (until the full amount of the settlement was paid), into the registry of the court by Byers was signed by the trial court on August 18, 2009.
The privilege asserted by St. Frances is provided for by La.R.S. 9:4752, which states:
St. Frances first argues that the trial court erred in granting the exception of prescription because the statutory lien set forth in La.R.S. 9:4752 does not have a prescriptive period. Dauzart, on the other hand, argues that St. Frances' claim is prescribed because no action was filed by St. Frances within the three year prescriptive period provided for a suit on an open account. Dauzart asserts that since the underlying obligation has prescribed, no lien can attach.
Louisiana Civil Code of Procedure Article 931 provides that evidence may be introduced in support of the peremptory exception when the grounds do not appear on the face of the pleadings, and when evidence is introduced at the hearing in support of the exception of prescription, the trial court's findings are factual in nature and are subject to the
With regard to the granting of the exception of no cause of action, in articulating the standard of review which governs our consideration of this, the supreme court explained: "the appellate court and this Court should subject the case to de novo review because the exception raises a question of law and the trial court's decision is based only on the sufficiency of the petition." Fink v. Bryant, 01-0987, p. 4 (La.11/28/01), 801 So.2d 346, 349.
Louisiana Civil Code Article 3277 provides that: "Privileges become extinct: 1. By the extinction of the thing subject to the privilege. 2. By the creditor acquiring the thing subject to it. 3. By the extinction of debt which gave birth to it. 4. By prescription." The debt "giving birth" to the privilege at issue herein is clearly a debt on open account. The prescriptive period for a suit on open account is three years. La.Civ.Code art. 3494.
While St. Frances correctly argues there is no requirement that the healthcare provider intervene into an action to either assert its privilege or to receive its payment and that La.R.S. 9:4752 does not contain a prescriptive period, this court has long recognized that "a lien or privilege is only an accessory right to the claim or debt, providing security and payment by preference, it has a life coextensive with that of the debt it is intended to secure, the result being that when the debt or claim is extinguished by prescription the privilege becomes extinct also." Toomer v. City of Lake Charles, 392 So.2d 794 (La.App. 3 Cir.1980), writ denied, 396 So.2d 931 (La.1981). Therefore, we find no legal error in the trial court's granting of the exception of prescription and find that St. Frances' right to collect the amount of the bill from Dauzart, Financial, and Byers has prescribed such that no lien on the funds paid by Financial and Byers pursuant to the settlement with Dauzart can attach.
St. Frances further argues that the privilege is effective because it provided the requisite notice prior to the payment of the settlement. St. Frances argues that the provisions of La.Civ.Code art. 3277 and La.R.S. 9:4751, et seq. cannot co-exist because the legislature could not have intended that a healthcare provider have only three years to perfect its lien, yet have La.R.S. 9:4751, et seq. allow the privilege to be effective if the proper notice is sent "prior to the conclusion of the litigation." We do not agree. First, the La. R.S. 9:4753 provides, in pertinent part:
The statute does not require notice prior to the conclusion of the litigation. It requires notice "prior to the payment of insurance proceeds, or to the payment of any judgment, settlement, or compromise." In this case, in order for the notice of the lien to be timely, notice had to be given before the funds were received into the registry of the court, as this was the "payment of insurance proceeds." See Sam v. Direct General Ins. Co. Of Louisiana, 06-1116 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/7/07), 951 So.2d 482. The order directing the clerk of court to receive the insurance proceeds was signed March 16, 2009. The notice of lien was not sent until June 19, 2009. Thus, we find no error the trial court's granting the exception of no cause of action in favor of Dauzart.
Having found no error in the trial court's granting of the exceptions, we need not consider St. Frances' argument that the trial court erred in not awarding it $8,095.25 under its alleged statutory lien.
For all of the foregoing reasons, we affirm the trial court's judgment. Costs of this appeal are assessed to St. Frances.