A.R. Audit Services, Inc., Plaintiff and Appellee
Charles Tuttle, Defendant and Appellant
from the District Court of Ward County, North Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Richard L. Hagar, Judge.
C. Ringsak, for plaintiff and appellee; submitted on brief.
M. Boughey for defendant and appellant.
VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
1] Charles Tuttle appealed a district court judgment awarding
A.R. Audit Services, Inc., money damages relating to medical
services Trinity Health provided to Tuttle. We modify the
judgment to reimburse Tuttle for paying A.R. Audit's $80
filing fee, and affirm the judgment as modified.
2] Trinity Health provided Tuttle with $127, 001.07 in
medical services. Tuttle applied for financial assistance
with Trinity, but was denied. Tuttle failed to pay the
medical bill after Trinity demanded payment. Trinity
subsequently assigned the debt to A.R. Audit Services.
3] A.R. Audit sued Tuttle to collect the medical debt. Tuttle
counterclaimed, alleging A.R. Audit failed to provide him
thirty days to respond to the debt collection demand. A.R.
Audit moved for summary judgment, arguing Tuttle was
responsible for the entire debt because he failed to provide
to Trinity information necessary to complete the application
for financial assistance. Tuttle responded with a motion to
dismiss, arguing Trinity should have sued him to collect the
debt instead of A.R. Audit. He also claimed Trinity
representatives told him he qualified for financial
assistance with Trinity and would not owe any money to
Trinity. The district court denied Tuttle's motion to
dismiss, dismissed his counterclaims, and granted A.R.
Audit's summary judgment motion, concluding Tuttle failed
to show he was not responsible for the debt.
4] Tuttle argues the district court erred in granting A.R.
Audit's motion for summary judgment. Tuttle contends a
genuine issue of material fact exists in that he claims
Trinity representatives informed him he did not owe any money
for the medical services provided to him because he qualified
for financial assistance.
5] Summary judgment is a procedural device under N.D.R.Civ.P.
56(c) for promptly resolving a controversy on the merits
without a trial if there are no genuine issues of material
fact or inferences that can reasonably be drawn from
undisputed facts, or if the only issues to be resolved are
questions of law. Superior, Inc. v. Behlen Mfg. Co.,
2007 ND 141, ¶ 6, 738 N.W.2d 19. The party seeking
summary judgment must demonstrate there are no genuine issues
of material fact and the case is appropriate for judgment as
a matter of law. Id. In deciding whether the
district court appropriately granted summary judgment, we
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the opposing
party, giving that party the benefit of all favorable
inferences which can reasonably be drawn from the record.
Id. A party opposing a motion for summary judgment
cannot simply rely on the pleadings or on unsupported
conclusory allegations. Stockman Bank of Montana v.
AGSCO, Inc., 2007 ND 26, ¶ 9, 728 N.W.2d 142.
Rather, a party opposing a summary judgment motion must
present competent admissible evidence by affidavit or other
comparable means that raises an issue of material fact and
must, if appropriate, draw the court's attention to
relevant evidence in the record raising an issue of material
fact. Id. When reasonable persons can reach only one
conclusion from the evidence, a question of fact may become a
matter of law for the court to decide. Id. A
district court's decision on summary judgment is a
question of law that we review de novo on the record.
Superior, at ¶ 6.
6] To support its motion for summary judgment, A.R. Audit
submitted five letters from Trinity addressed to Tuttle
regarding his application for financial assistance. Some of
the letters request Tuttle provide additional information to
complete his application for financial assistance, such as
tax returns, bank statements, and pay stubs. The remaining
letters state Trinity denied Tuttle's application for
financial assistance because he did not provide all of the
information necessary to process his application. A.R. Audit
also submitted an affidavit from Kathy Marchand,
Trinity's financial counselor. Marchand's affidavit
states Tuttle was advised he did not qualify for financial
assistance because he failed to provide information necessary
to process his application.
7] In opposing A.R. Audit's summary judgment motion,
Tuttle submitted an affidavit signed by himself. Tuttle
states he was repeatedly informed by Trinity representatives
that he did not owe any money because he qualified for
financial assistance. Tuttle provides very little detail
regarding the conversations he stated he had with
representatives from Trinity. He does not provide all of the
names of the Trinity representatives he spoke to, nor does he
refer to any dates the conversations took place. He states
Marchand told him "she would handle it" after he
received the denial letters. Marchand's affidavit
disputes Tuttle's claims in his affidavit. Standing
alone, these competing affidavits may create a disputed fact
issue, however, Marchand's affidavit is supported by
additional evidence stating Tuttle did not qualify for
financial assistance. Tuttle's affidavit contains
conclusory statements with no additional evidence supporting
those statements. In light ...