Premier Physicians Group, PLLC v. Navarro – 8/30/2016

September 19, 2016

Arizona Supreme Court holds that under A.R.S. § 33-932(A) non-hospital providers must record medical liens either before services are first provided or within thirty days thereafter.

When a patient may have a damages claim related to their injury, Arizona allows the medical providers to record liens that apply to those claims.  Non-hospital providers perfect those liens by filing them “before or within thirty days after the patient has received any services.” A.R.S. § 33-932(A).  The non-hospital provider in this case treated a patient after a car accident.  The provider gave services between June and October 2011 and recorded a lien on September 16, 2011. 

When the provider brought suit to enforce the lien, the patient moved to dismiss, arguing that the September recording was untimely.  The trial court agreed and dismissed because the lien was recorded more than thirty days after the initial services.  The Court of Appeals reversed and held that the lien was effective as long as it was recorded within thirty days of the last services performed but that it only applied to services no earlier than thirty days before the recording.  The Supreme Court accepted the patient’s petition for review, vacated the Court of Appeals’ opinion and affirmed the trial court.

The Supreme Court noted that the requirement to record “within thirty days after … any services” could be understood to refer to either the first service provided or to any services provided at any time.  This led to the differing interpretations of the lower courts.  Looking to the broader context of the statute, the two disjunctive terms, “before or within thirty days,” must be read to modify the same action, “any services.”  The phrase “before … any services” most naturally refers to the first services provided and so the phrase “within thirty days after … any services” should also be understood to refer to the first services.  This fixed deadline is consistent with and gives independent meaning to the lien recording requirements for hospital providers which mandate filing within thirty days after discharge.  Providing early notice of the lien to interested parties is also consistent with the purposes of the lien statute, even though the patient may continue to receive services for a long time. 

Justice Bolick authored the unanimous opinion.