The Guam Memorial Hospital responded to a class action lawsuit filed against them by a citizen of the Freely Associated States.
Guam – The Guam Memorial Hospital wants a class action lawsuit filed against them dismissed on grounds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
The lawsuit was filed by a Chuukese citizen who claims that her tax refund was unlawfully garnished by the hospital for several years.
GMH says it’s pretty simple—Tarin Atesom owed the hospital money so–as allowed by Guam law–they garnished her tax refunds to collect on that debt.
But Atesom’s attorney, William Bischoff says Atesom, as a citizen of the Freely Associated States, is protected from garnishment because of the Compact of Free Association—an agreement made between the FAS and the US government that is supposed to reimburse Guam for expenses associated with hosting FAS migrants.
Essentially, by garnishing Atesom’s tax refund, GMH is collecting twice because they are also reimbursed by the federal government for the costs to treat FAS migrants such as Atesom, the lawsuit states. The problem, however, is that GovGuam typically receives significantly less than what they spend.
Regardless, GMH’s attorney, Minakshi Hemlani says, “Although the US Federal government is supposed to reimburse Guam for costs associated with hosting regional immigrants, it has not obligated itself to pay for expenses incurred by individual FSM citizens residing in Guam.”
Furthermore, Hemlani says the case should be dismissed on grounds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The proper course of action, Hemlani points out, is for Atesom to file a government claim for her dispute with the hospital and if she’s still unsatisfied, the proper jurisdiction to take the case would be the Superior Court.
But even if the District Court were to rule subject matter jurisdiction, Hemlani says the case should still be dismissed because no law was broken.
“Her tax refunds were garnished as payment for the debt she owed to the hospital,” Hemlani writes in court papers, “not for some public purpose that deserves just compensation.”
The lawsuit states that GMH had garnished Atesom’s tax refunds in their entirety for three straight years, despite the fact that Atesom only makes about $12,000 a year while supporting her children.
You can read GMH’s response by clicking on the file below.