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Credit Bureau Enterprises, Inc. v. Pelo

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff Credit Bureau Enterprises brings this action to compel Defendant Pelo to pay medical bills arising from an involuntary hospitalization. Defendant was hospitalized after he threatened to commit suicide. Initially, Defendant refused to sign a release, but later read and signed the release.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When a person is provided medical services and consent is irrelevant due to medical incompetence, that person is required to pay for the benefit received from those services.

    Facts. Defendant was hospitalized under an emergency hospitalization order after threatening to commit suicide. Initially, Defendant refused to sign a release. The release makes the patient or the patient’s insurance provider liable for the hospital. According to Defendant, he was awakened at approximately 5:00 A.M. and told by a nurse that the hospital could not insure the safety and return of his person items until he signed the release. Defendant then read and signed the release. The release form stated that Defendant understood he would be liable for any portion of the hospital bill not covered by insurance. Defendant’s wife filed an application to continue his involuntary hospitalization, but Defendant was released. After his release, Defendant refused to pay or authorize his insurance provider to pay his hospital bill.

    Issue. Is Defendant required to pay the hospital bill under a theory of implied contract?

    Held. Yes. Defendant is obligated to pay the hospital bill.
    A contract implied by law is one imposed by law on the parties regardless of their assent. Unjust enrichment is one way the law implies a contract between parties. Where one party unjustly benefits at the expense of another, unjust enrichment requires that the benefiting party make restitution. In other words when a person is not acting officiously performs a service for another, which are known and accepted, a promise to pay for the services is implied by law. Restitution may be required even if the services are not requested or voluntarily consented to, for example when consent is impossible or immaterial due to age or mental impairment.
    Defendant argues that because he did not voluntarily agree to pay for the services and because continued hospitalization was not necessary, he should not have to pay the hospital bill. The Court disagrees and noted that the hospitalization was based on probable cause that Defendant was seriously mentally impaired, which establishes that Defendant lacked ability to consent to the treatment he received. The Court also found that Defendant benefited from the treatment he received at the hospital.
    Because Defendant was not fully mentally competent and was rendered professional services that conferred a benefit upon him, the Court held that he was obligated to pay for those services under a theory of implied contract.

    Discussion. In the present case, the Court found that whether Defendant’s consent was voluntary was irrelevant due to his mental condition. Therefore, the Court held that Defendant is obligated to pay his hospital bill.


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