California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division
from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County,
No. BC569989 Lori Ann Fournier, Judge. Affirmed.
B. Stevens and Steven Weinberg, for Plaintiff and Appellant.
Becerra, Attorney General, Julie Weng-Gutierrez, Senior
Assistant Attorney General, Richard T. Waldow, Supervising
Deputy Attorney General, Nicole J. Kau, Deputy Attorney
General, for Defendant and Respondent.
are needy and someone injures you, the government may pay for
your medical care but later ask you for repayment if you get
a large settlement from the tortfeasor. In California this is
by way of Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal seeks repayment from people with
settlements so it can provide care to others in need.
case displays that situation. The trial court approved the
existence and amount of the Medi-Cal settlement lien in this
case. We affirm. Statutory citations are to the Welfare and
recount the main facts, which are undisputed.
Lomeli's guardian sued medical care providers for his
catastrophic birth injuries. Through the Medi-Cal system, the
Department of Health Care Services paid for his care before
and during his lawsuit. Lomeli settled with defendants for $4
million. The Department moved to impose a $267, 159.60 lien
on this settlement. The trial court granted this motion.
Lomeli appeals this May 23, 2018 order.
law does not block the Department's lien. Our review of
this legal question is independent.
argues to the contrary, saying sections 14124.72 and 14124.76
violate the Supremacy Clause of the federal constitution.
Lomeli's argument relies solely on an analysis from the
dissent in Tristani ex rel. Karnes v.
Richman (3rd Cir. 2011) 652 F.3d 360, 379-387
(Tristani). The trial court went with the
Tristani majority. So do we. At pages 367-375, the
Tristani majority correctly determined federal law
does not prohibit liens like this one.
the Tristani debate is this. The Tristani
majority held two provisions of the Social Security Act did
not bar state Medicare liens. To effectuate Congress's
goals in enacting the federal Medicare program, the
Tristani majority interpreted federal statutes as
containing implied exceptions to provisions that otherwise
seemed to bar the liens. (See Tristani,
supra, 652 F.3d at p. 370.) The dissent agreed some
implicit federal exception to these two Social Security
statutes did exist. (Id. at pp. 384 (dis. opn. of
Pollack, J.) [“must constitute an explicit
exception”] & 385 (dis. opn. of Pollack, J.)
[“a limited implied exception must be read into the
anti-recovery provision”].) The dissent argued this
implicit exception was narrower than the majority's
expression of it.
Tristani majority analysis is better for two
a desire to effectuate the legislative purpose drove the
dominant mode of statutory interpretation over the past
century has been one premised on the view that legislation is
a purposive act, and judges should construe statutes to
execute that legislative purpose. This approach finds lineage
in the sixteenth-century English decision Heydon's
Case, which summons judges to interpret statutes in a
way ‘as shall suppress the mischief, and advance the
remedy.'” (Katzmann, Judging Statutes (2014) p.
courts follow this dominant mode. In our state, we must
interpret words to promote rather than to defeat the general
purpose of a statute. Suppose the language of a statute is
reasonably susceptible of two constructions. If one would
produce results that are reasonable, fair, and harmonious
with the statute's manifest purpose, and another would
produce absurd consequences, we must adopt the former
construction. (Department of Motor Vehicles v. Industrial
Acc. Com. (1939) 14 Cal.2d 189, 195.) Like the
Tristani majority, our fundamental task is to
ascertain the intent of the lawmakers to effectuate the
purpose of the statute. (E.g., Apple Inc. v. Superior
Court (2013) 56 Cal.4th 128, 135.)
and California state law agree on this point: read a statute
to effectuate its purpose. The Tristani majority
correctly discerned Congress's purpose: to ensure
Medicaid beneficiaries do not receive a windfall by