The class action lawsuit was filed by Attorney William Bischoff on behalf of his client Tairin Atesom as well as other similarly situated.
Guam – A class action lawsuit has been filed against the Guam Memorial Hospital over the garnishment of tax returns that were owed to indigent patients, specifically, citizens of the Freely Associated States.
The lawsuit was filed by Attorney William Bischoff on behalf of FAS migrant, Tairin Atesom and as a class action lawsuit to include those similarly situated.
“No one wants to have to take his or her child to the hospital,” the lawsuit begins. Attorney Bischoff says in court documents that his client had received services at GMH sometime in 2007. Then beginning in 2012 and every year thereafter, GMH began garnishing her tax refunds in their entirety.
“At her minimum wage, or nearly minimum wage job(s), in 2014 [Atesom] earned, for example, only $12,468. Her income tax withholdings were only $2. But with her Earned Income and Dependent Child tax credits … she became entitled to a $7,036 refund. GMHA garnished all of that refund and has likewise garnished all of her refunds for the past three year to pay for hospital bills allegedly owed for services rendered to her or her children,” Bischoff says.
But he notes that the EITC and Child Tax credit were intended to give a boost to the working poor, particularly those with dependent chidlren.
“It’s purpose is to enable them to pay for something like a used car that works, or a washing machine, or to pay back rent so as to stave off eviction, or to pay off a high interest personal loan or the like when they receive the refund, which is frequently in an amount of five to six thousand dollars,” writes Bischoff.
Not only was the garnishment of Atesom’s tax refund unconstitutional, says Bischoff, but the statute of limitations had already expired when GMH decided to garnish Atesom’s tax refunds in their entirety beginning in 2012. Bischoff says the services were rendered in 2007 and earlier.
And he says that any agreement Atesom may have made with GMH after the four year statute expired “was made without sufficient consideration, under duress, in extremis, and/or by way of GMH’s taking unfair and unconscionable advantage of plaintiff’s and each of the proposed Class members’ lack of legal sophistication about the matter.”
Atesom is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and to stop GMH from garnishing tax refunds. He points out that the aggregate amount of damages “is well in excess of the diversity jurisdictional threshold of $75,000.”
You can read the class action lawsuit by clicking on the file below.