A hearing initially scheduled for Monday regarding the possible certification of a civil case involving T.J. Samson Community Hospital to class status was postponed when Barren Circuit Judge Phillip Patton recused himself.

Patton stepped aside as a judge in the case because “Patton, his family and close friends would be members of the class action in this case,” according to court documents.

The civil lawsuit began as a November 2013 action by the hospital against Ronnie K. Garmon and Barbara Garmon of Glasgow seeking payment of past due bills totaling $8,431.64, including interest and collection costs, plus interest going forward until the case is resolved.

The Garmons filed a counterclaim in March and asked for the lawsuit to become a class action, alleging the hospital “has engaged, and continues to engage, in a pattern and practice of charging patients for services which Hospital had contractually agreed not to charge.”

The crux of the counterclaim is a patient contract that says “if the patient is eligible to receive benefits under a healthcare service plan with which the hospital has contracted, the patient shall not be obligated to pay for services covered under the plan which are paid pursuant to the contract.”

The hospital’s reply to the counterclaim says this is not “an appropriate matter to be resolved in the form of a class action.” Although it admits health insurers paid a portion of the charges the Garmons incurred, “TJ Samson denies that it was contractually obligated to accept those payments as payment in full.”

Patton’s order certifying the need for a special judge also says the family court docket for the circuit containing Barren and Metcalfe counties “is such that presiding in this action would be a hardship for Judge (Mitchell) Nance and the Family Court.”

Once a special judge is assigned, the hearing on the class status will be rescheduled.

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