Appellate court rules for city on hospital bill challenge

A disputed hospital bill between city and county officials has surfaced again.
    Thirteen months after District Court Judge David Urbom ruled the city of Imperial was responsible for a $436 hospital bill, and not the county, the Nebraska Court of Appeals has overturned that ruling.
    The decision was handed down by three appellate court judges Aug. 14.
    “I wasn’t surprised,” said City Attorney Josh Wendell, who argued the Appellate Court case along with Nebraska League of Municipalities attorney Andre Barry.
    “That’s why we filed the appeal.”
    The disagreement over the bill stemmed from a Dec. 24, 2016 arrest by the Imperial Police Department.
    Background cited in the Court of Appeals decision noted, “Upon arrival at the jail, the arrestee was intoxicated, uncooperative and belligerent.”
    Jail employees began the booking process, but due to his intoxication, noncompliance and refusal to answer medical questions, one of the employees requested the police officer get clearance from the hospital for him to be jailed.
    That examination, which cleared him for incarceration, cost $436.
    Since then, both parties have been unable to agree on who is responsible for paying the bill.
    In Judge Urbom’s district court ruling in July 2017, he sided with the county.
    He determined the arrestee was not yet “lodged” in the jail, so payment of the hospital bill was the city’s responsibility.
    The three judges on the Appellate Court saw it differently, however.
    The county’s reliance on the “lodging” of the prisoner comes from rules in the Nebraska Jail Standards. State statutes, though, take precedence, the Appellate Court believes.
    The Appellate Court cited State Statutes 47-701 to 47-705,which address arrests, health care and costs.
    Specifically pointing to State Statute 47-703, they wrote the arresting agency, in this case the IPD, is only responsible for medical costs “when they are necessitated by injuries or wounds suffered during the course of apprehension or arrest.”

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