Why won’t AT&T help me with my medical bills?


After an accident at an AT&T store, Jane Smith-Stage turns to me for help with her medical bills But what can be done?

Question: I’m writing in hopes that you can help me with a challenge I’m having with AT&T. Last August, I was in an AT&T retail store in Smyrna, Tenn., to purchase an iPhone. When I had selected my phone, the sales associate suggested that we sit while she went over the information. I slipped and fell while climbing onto the stool.

After leaving the store, we immediately went to an emergency room where I learned that I had fractured my left wrist. I went to the Vanderbilt Orthopedic Clinic, where my arm was cast.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance. Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

X-rays taken a few weeks later indicated that the break was not healing properly and surgery would be required to place a plate and screws in my wrist. Following my surgery, I started physical and occupational therapy.

As a result of the surgery, I developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) which resulted in additional therapy, doctor visits and medication. I was released from the doctor and therapy in early November, however, there is a high probability that I will have some degree of continuing problems from the CRPS.

At this point, my direct expenses related to the injury are in excess of $25,000, which I can’t pay. I’m now receiving demand letters from a collection agency.

The store manager, as well as others at AT&T corporate, directed me to Sedgwick CMS, AT&T’s third-party claims administrator, regarding assistance with my medical expenses. My claim has been denied.

What I want and need is for AT&T to do the right thing for a long-time customer, and that is to help me with my medical bills. — Jane Smith-Stage, Nolensville, Tenn.

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your medical problems. AT&T should ensure that its stores have safe furniture in them, of course. But there’s no clear culprit here in this story — and unfortunately, no clear resolution.

AT&T does bear some responsibility for having a stool in one of its stores that caused your fall. Typically, a company would carry liability insurance, to which a claim like this would be sent. In your case, AT&T referred your claim to its insurance company, which determined it was not liable. I’ll have details in a moment.

But there’s also the issue of personal responsibility. I’m not just talking about looking behind you before you sit down, which goes without saying. Why didn’t you have medical insurance that would have covered such an event?

It turns out you tried to buy insurance but were denied because of a previous, unrelated medical condition. Not to get too political — after all, this is a consumer advocacy column — but something is wrong with the medical care system when you can’t get coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.

The recent healthcare reforms were too late to cover this incident, leaving you with a $25,000 bill. I can’t make that bill go away, but you might try contacting a medical advocate like Health Assist Tennessee, which could explain your options and guide you through the process of repaying your bill without being harassed by collectors.

I contacted AT&T on your behalf repeatedly. The result was less than ideal. You received a letter from the company, saying that your claim should be sent to the chair’s manufacturer, Dauphin North America. I would be happy to contact the manufacturer on your behalf if, and when, it rejects your claim. Or you could take this matter to small claims court. Coincidentally, the claims limit is $25,000, so you could conceivably recover everything.

But for now, at least, AT&T is a dead end. I wish I had better news.

Should AT&T cover Jane Smith-Stage's medical bills?

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129 thoughts on “Why won’t AT&T help me with my medical bills?

  1. I sympathize with the LW, but there is nothing in the story that suggests that the store was negligent in any way. She slipped and fell while climbing on the stool. Was the stool defective? Was it placed on a slanting surface? Was there something slick on the floor that shouldn’t have been?

    It doesn’t appear that there is any legal, moral or ethical basis for having the store pay the LWs medical bills.

    1. I’m calling slip and fall artist on this one, especially after the mention of the “long term effects” of the broken wrist. I’d be curious to see what other companies she’d tried to bilk.

    2. I was thinking of you the second I started reading the story. Now HERE Is an opportunity for Carver to actually make easy money from reading this blog! 🙂

      Not too much more I can contribute but this observation: A lot of modern stores seem to be set up like Vegas casinos: To keep people moving and spending money. You wait a half hour in an mobile phone store and they don’t have anywhere to sit. Perhaps it’s kind of like a police interrogation technique to get people uncomfortable and more easily compliant. “OK, I’ll pay $200 a month! Can I leave and go sit down somewhere now?” My wife works retail part time. It’s made her legs like a horse. If she gets mad at me and kicks me, I’m through!

      1. Addition: At my wife’s store, they have a “men’s area”. This is the place where men can kind of sit while waiting for their wife/girlfriend to buy women’s clothes. It’s kind of like a ledge on the window where you can sit. I call it the dungeon. Women making their husband go clothes shopping with them should be charged with DV.

    3. I 100% agree. This is why people think we are litigation happy. She’s a klutz and wants them to pay. Sorry… Just because you were in a store doesn’t mean the store was negligent. She’d almost have a better strict liability claim that the chair was defective, which is what the insurance company was essentially telling her to do. I doubt she’d win on it bc there’s no indication the chair was defective but still… It’s the better argument.

  2. “AT&T does bear some responsibility for having a stool in one of its stores that caused your fall.”

    Well, no. The act of climbing into the stool caused the fall. Unless it stuck one of its legs out and tripped her.

    1. Agreed! Saying that having a stool in the store means AT&T bears some responsibility is like saying that Home Depot bears some responsibility if you pull a sharp pickaxe off the shelf and spear your own foot with it.

      1. There was a case a decade or so ago at Home Depot where they had a “bring your kid to the store” day. I thought to myself: That is sure to not be a good idea.

        And of course… some family brings a developmentally challenged child with them and the kid runs wild throughout the store unsurpervised and decides to pull down on a massive door display and it comes down on him. He goes to the hospital and there are massive medical bills and permanent (additional) brain damage. Home Depot paid out a million bucks or something like that.

        In general, auto repair shops don’t encourage kids to run around much less the customers. Or butcher shops.

      2. If she were trying to sit down on the stool, I agree. If, however, the stool was too tall and she was trying to get onto it, that would be another matter.

        1. It doesn’t really matter if she fell trying to sit down onto the stool or climbing up into it; you are expected to know your own limitations. (barring a defect with the stool, such as a too-narrow base for the height.) I think if any such factor was in play, it’d be a lawyer she’d be calling, not Chris.

  3. I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t see any evidence of negligence on AT&T’s part here. It was an accident that simply happened on their premesis. Does that make AT&T liable? Again, I don’t know the laws, so that’s a sincere question.
    I’m sorry for the OP, but to me it looks like she just wants ANYONE to pay for an accident that could have happened anywhere.
    (Also, if she brought this to court isn’t
    it possible that they could bring up her Pre-existing condition, and inquire as to whether that may have had an influence on the fall? I don’t know what her condition is, but something to consider…)

    1. I suspect that’s why she’s working with a consumer advocate instead of a lawyer 🙂

      I do feel for her. Hope she can get help or otherwise sort out her medical bills.

        1. Oh, bull. You’re saying if one doesn’t have $25,000 available, one shouldn’t purchase a smartphone? That’s just asinine.

        2. Ugh. Don’t go there Raven. I really dislike that line of thinking. The whole “if you’re poor you don’t deserve anything” line.

          Even poor people sometimes need cellphones, especially if they are trying to find a job. Or are you of the belief that they should give potential employers the number of a payphone and just stand there all day hoping one of the places they put in an application might call? They even sometimes need cars, so they can get to a job. But there is this whole line of thinking that if you’re poor, you don’t deserve ANYthing, and you should sell all of your personal belongings because actually having any belongings means you’re not poor so stop asking for help, you’re not really poor.

          I usually like your snark. But not this time.

          Oh, and just FTR, I am in total agreement with you that this entire “claim” is nothing but an opportunistic slip-and-fall scam. Well, maybe not a pre-planned scam, but she is trying to make somebody else pay for her clumsiness.

          1. There are many options available for phones even for those who are unemployed or low income. Not everyone needs an iPhone or other expensive smart phone. Even cars, housing and clothing have options available for persons of all income levels.

            I make a decent income, but I won’t be buying a Lamborghini no matter how much I like them and want one because I cannot afford the payments. Knowing what someone can afford and selecting from that pool of items until you can afford the higher price items seems to be a lost ability today.

          2. iPhones are available for $1 (iPhone 4) or free (refurb 5); that makes them no more expensive (and in many cases cheaper) than other contract phones.

            And being unable to pay $25k in medical bills out of pocket hardly means you must be “low income”. A sudden $25k bill, even on a payment plan, is like suddenly having to make payments on a brand-new car. I’d say most middle-class families would have trouble scraping up hundreds a month out-of-the-blue.

          3. I’m wondering how much of that $25K was trumped up in the hopes of a big slip and fall case.

          4. And you know she’s “low income” how? I wouldn’t be able to easily pay off $25,000 in medical bills, and I’m not “low income”. I guess I should get rid of my iPhone.

            Comparing an iPhone to a Lamborghini? That’s priceless.

            :::rolling eyes:::

            Read some of the other responses to Raven’s offensively anti-poor post. iPhones can be had for very cheap these days.

            But oh, wait…I forgot: if you can’t afford to pay $25,000 in surprise medical bills, you don’t deserve one.

          5. I was not commenting on the specific OP in this article. I know nothing about her other than what was posted here by Mr Elliott. My comment was to the more general idea of “poor people don’t deserve anything” line expressed in your comment.

            What I was attempting to point out, and apparently did not do a good job, is that everyone has multiple options for things we all consider necessities. The coolest option is not always the smartest. Sometimes a simpler option is the better one.

          6. I hear ya. The difference is, you seem to think an iPhone is the coolest (and most expensive) option. As others have pointed out, they can be had for very cheap. So your point was kinda lost in that.

            I just find the whole thought process behind denigrating poor people to be distasteful, and I see it far too often among a certain…um…set of people with a particular political viewpoint.

          7. Yup, I’m classist. That’s the correct term, according to the internet.

            ~~~Now you know!~~~

            FYI: I just have a hard time dealing with people who think they are entitled to stuff. Take a look at the Dish case here a few days ago. “We’re on a budget so we can’t afford this…but we want it anyway.” Guys, you can live without TV. I did, for two years when I was flat-butt broke. SRSLY.

          8. I actually don’t think you are a classist. I think you just expressed your irritation over this woman’s apparent money-grab inelegantly, delving into an area that you don’t usually delve into. Thus my response that I usually enjoy your snark, but not this time.

            And we all know how you feel about people who play the “oh poor me” card when asking for help with their travel issues. Personally I don’t think the OP was playing the “oh I’m poor” card here, so much as the “I’m so lucky I had my bout of clumsiness while I happened to be in a store of a company with deep pockets” card! And on that second “card”, I happen to agree with you.

            If she’d had her clumsy spell after she left the store, she’d be outta luck. But because she did it inside the store, she thinks they should pay for it. I disagree with that.

            However, what I DO believe is that she never should have been denied insurance coverage due to a pre-existing condition in the first place, so this issue never would have come up. I’m very grateful that the ACA now protects us all from that.

          9. I also believe that “pre-exisiting conditions” should never keep someone from getting health insurance. 🙂

          10. But there are many smart phones out there that are far less expensive than an iPhone. I think that’s what Raven’s saying.

          11. I know it is an old post, but poor people do not need smartphones. a basic telephone works just fine and is 1/3 the cost. I think even the cheapest plans from the major carriers like Verizon or AT&T these days would cost something like $80-$100 when you factor in the data plan. (lower if it is a second line, though if you are poor, how do you have so many smart phones) So even a $1 iPhone still costs several thousand dollars over the course of the contract.

            Also, the hospital may have billed her $25,000 but the actual amount the health insurance company would pay on these claims is far less. I’d bet if she negotiated with the hospital and other providers that the bills would drop significantly. Additionally, there are people who get plans even when they had pre existing conditions. the insurance covers things not related to the pre existing condition. (it’s called insurance for a reason, to mitigate an unknown potential risk)

        3. You can get an iPhone 4 for $1 on-contract, or a refurb 5 for free. I can think of a lot of people that can’t pay $25k medical bills out of pocket (even on a payment plan) that can afford a simple smartphone plan.

        4. Technically, she was buying the iPhone before she had an apparent $25,000 of medical bills. That’s a big change in circumstances for most people.
          Still don’t think AT&T owes her anything, but you can’t blame the phone for her finances.

      1. Agreed. There are legions of personal injury attorneys who would be happy to take on a legitimate “slip and fall” case. If this case had merit, why not go to one of them?

        1. Barring that, why not go to an ambulance chaser? There’re many of those extant who would take on a mostly bogus case if it had a scintilla of a prospect of success. .

    2. In my experience working with insurance, and I did work for an insurance company for a while designing a computer system, is that they will still provide insurance if you have a pre-existing condition, they just wont’ cover expenses related to the pre-existing condition. This, fortunalty, is no longer allowed. And the insurance I worked with was just in certain states, it could be different in the OPs state.

          1. I had the surgery 10 years ago and needed insurance I think 8 years ago bc I’d lost mine when I got laid off (they laid me off at 88 days so I never qualified for their insurance, this no COBRA). I just went without (not happily) until I found a job. It’s dumb… I was way way healthier after losing 140 pounds… It’s just a ruse to deny people.

            Anyway, I have tricare now so as long as I can convince my husband to stay in, I’m fine. Actually though, I thank god for the ACA bc I was just diagnosed with lupus. The gastric bypass was so long ago that I don’t think they’d care about that… But lupus… Yeah, don’t think they’d happily and voluntarily take me on. That’s why I’m for universal healthcare… You just never know when you’re going to come down with something bad.

      1. I know plenty of people that were completely ineligible to purchase insurance prior to the ACA law going into effect. You could be turned down completely for something as simple as having high blood pressure. I myself was repeatedly turned down for insurance over a period of several years due to my lupus diagnosis.

        This problem of denial of insurance due to pre-existing conditions was one of the major motivators behind the ACA law. There was literally millions of people in this country that couldn’t buy insurance at ANY price because they were deemed uninsurable under the old system.

    3. I doubt her condition had anything to go with her wrist so in that sense, no. I guess they could argue she’s got a messed up back and that is what caused her to fall (I don’t know her other condition… I’m just giving an example). Now the CRPS… I wonder if they’d try to argue that it wasn’t a foreseeable outcome bc CRPS is rare and maybe her other condition predisposed her to get the CRPS.

      1. Back condition, low blood sugar, migraines, ear issues…anything that could affect her balance or ability to move well… I would just think that if she brought this as a legal case, the opposing side would be looking for any reason to turn the blame back to the OP. And since there doesn’t seem to be an abundance of evidence that the stool or store were at fault, I’d think they’d have a good chance.

  4. I’m a little fuzzy as to how AT&T could be responsible. Did the stool collapse? Was the floor of the store slippery? In short, other than the fact she happened to be in an AT&T store at the time, what does that have to do with the injury?

    “Long-time customer” status extends to something like letting you swap out the phone you dropped in the toilet a couple months before your contract was up. It doesn’t extend to $25k in medical bills.

  5. The answer to the poll question is NO! and hundred times NO!

    As I read this, I could just hear some of the overseas readers making fun of how litigious our society is. There is nothing in the narrative to suggest that AT&T had any responsibility for her fall. In fact, there’s a lot there to say that there was probably 0 negligence involved in the fall. Take your pick from the insurance company taking a pass (I’ve never heard of an insurance company not trying to minimize its damages if there was any chance that someone could win in court) to her contacting a consumer advocate instead of a lawyer. Her entire narrative seems to read like a pitch to a personal injury lawyer. With personal injury lawyers being so easy to find (saw 5 commercials last night) I think she probably got turned down.

    Falling over ones shoelace in a store does not mean a huge financial payday. Sometimes, life just happens.

  6. Like others commenting here, I am curious as to how the stool caused her fall and why AT&T bears some responsibility for having a stool that caused the fall. What was omitted that showed AT&T is at least partially responsible for what appears to be an accident?

      1. And sitting on a stool, rather than a chair. Stools really aren’t a good piece of furniture for every member of the public – think short people, elderly people, those with disabilities and so on. But it looks oh so fashionable!

        1. I’m tall and in good health and I still hate stools. No back support. They don’t hurt my back, but they just feel wrong.

        2. If you have trouble using a stool, then politely refuse the salesperson’s invitation. It’s not the job of a salesperson to decide whether or not you are capable of using a particular seat. (in fact, if they simply assumed short or elderly people couldn’t use a stool, I’m sure there would be complaints about that too!)

          And stools make perfect sense, as it means you can use a particular workstation standing or sitting. Maybe you want to stand while the salesguy looks up your account in the computer, but would like to sit while he goes through all the paperwork to actually sell you a phone. If you set out chairs, they’d be too short for standing workstations. If all your workstations are sitting ones, then you have to keep getting up and down many times to do your tasks.

          1. Not ignoring you – still waiting to hear back from my 2 sons who work at/have worked at AT&T about the stools. I seem to remember the one son griping about them and also griping that employees get reprimanded if they sit down at all while customers are in the store, but am waiting for their input.

      2. That’s what I thought too, and I wondered if whatever her “pre-existing” condition was maybe something that affects her balance? Also, we don’t know how old she is.. if she’s older, heavier, etc… and her balance, stability whatever are compromised, then she should know her own limitations about things like climbing onto a stool or whatever and say, “Is there someplace else to sit? Perhaps a couch or chair?” rather than just clambering on up. I feel bad for her; broken wrists are painful and if it’s your primary hand, obnoxiously hard to work around, but as much as I dislike AT&T, it’s just not their fault 🙁

    1. ” I am curious as to how the stool caused her fall” How can you be so obtuse? The stool obviously did the “Soupy Shuffle” and skedaddled out from under her! True! I wouldn’t lie to you! The check is in the mail.

  7. The comment board is often filled with people complaining about entitled travelers. This is a million times worse. Accidents happen, and to expect someone to pay for your clumsiness is outrageous. I do understand how much medical bills can drain your life, but that doesn’t make them someone else’s responsibility.

    1. I don’t really fault the OP for looking into the possibility of AT&T covering part of the costs. It doesn’t hurt to ask. The part that got me was Christopher encouraging her by saying he thought AT&T was at least partially at fault. Unless he has information not presented in the article, that’s wasn’t a really responsible thing to tell the OP.

    2. I fell off a stool and broke my arm and wrist. When my insurance company didn’t want to pay and asked me about it looking for someone else to pay, I said NO, IT WAS MY FAULT. I FELL. They really wanted the business where it occurred to pick up the tab.

  8. I voted yes, but with a caveat. Contrary to what many (so far) have posted, most businesses carry “medical payments” insurance along with their liability policies. Medical payments coverage can be paid out, regardless of liability. Unfortunately, most policies have something like a $5,000 limit, unless a business chooses to buy more coverage, which I suspect AT&T has not.

    I suggest that the OP ask the insurance administrators if the medical payments portion of their policy would apply, take what they offer and sign a release form for the rest. Like others, I don’t see any actual liability on the company’s part. I like the referral to an agency that will assist the OP in paying the bills she’s accrued.

    1. Jeanne_in_NE She did apply for the medical coverage and her claim was denied…

      “The store manager, as well as others at AT&T corporate, directed me to Sedgwick CMS, AT&T’s third-party claims administrator, regarding assistance with my medical expenses. My claim has been denied.”

      1. Having worked in insurance for 20 years, I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that either 1) AT&T is self-insured and so doesn’t have the standard liability policy, which renders the medical payments idea moot; or 2) Sedgwick has the same kind of drones working for them as work for any insurance company, and they don’t know to look at medical payments coverage rather than liability coverage.

      2. Med Pay is considered “no fault” or “good will” insurance and is used to pay the medical bills in a slip and fall incident in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit. Limits are typically $5,000 to $10,000. However, many businesses with a lot of public traffic choose not to purchase the coverage, figuring there will be a high volume of small claims which they can cover if they feel it’s warranted, or not cover and just wait for the lawsuit (which doesn’t actually happen all that often in these cases)

  9. Can’t pay the medical bills — or won’t pay?

    Was she hoping that AT&T would simply hand over the money (maybe believing the common misconception that a business is fully responsible for any injury on their premises no matter how it is caused). Did she lose her job due to the fall? Did she not have any medical insurance at all? She apparently had enough income to pay for the smart phone and the monthly service charges at the time of the fall. While I know most people would not have enough cash on hand to pay out $25,000 at one time (I know I don’t), I also know most hospitals and doctors would be more than happy to work out something and would not send you to collections if you are making payments.

    Don’t mean to sound like I don’t care because I do care and don’t like to see anyone get hurt, but people have to take responsibility for their own actions. She fell, she hurt herself. No one at the AT&T store pushed her or caused her injuries. There is no indication that AT&T did anything to aggravate the condition.

    1. In her defense, she couldn’t get insurance before 1/1/2014 when the pre-existing medical condition part of the ACA took effect. So it’s not her fault she didn’t have health coverage. But if she’d purchased a personal accidental injury policy (like I’ve had for a decade or more), she would have been covered for potentially a few thousand dollars or more to at least begin to make payments on the medical bills. I really wish she had. I do feel for her.

  10. The outcome of “slip and fall” cases usually depends on whether there was any defect or unmarked hazard at the site. If the stool had broken when the OP sat on it, or if she had encountered a wet floor without a “Piso Mojado” sign, she would have been able to look up and see a column of tort lawyers circling on the closest available thermal above the store.

    In this case, she would probably have to prove that a significant number of other customers had slipped while climbing onto the same type of stool, leading to possible action against the furniture manufacturer. She might especially want to revisit her medical billing after the fall. Did the hospitals and doctors involved smell a slip-and-fall settlement and order extra tests and rehab to pad their prices? In any case, those huge medical bills she is being dunned for have no relation to the real customary payments for service, which are prearranged by contact with insurance companies as a tiny fraction of the “chargemaster” amount that was sent to the collection agency. As an uninsured patient, she can negotiate the bills down to an amount closer to what the doctors and hospitals involved customarily get.

    1. +1 for the second half of the second paragraph. I’m absolutely floored by the tests that get ordered if someone with deep pockets is suspected to be in the picture.

      1. I don’t know how much that happens or in what area of medicine. All I know is that where I’ve worked, we only really did some extra tests for something like that if the patient requests them. Which is usually with worker’s comp cases or if someone gets hit by a drunk driver. We’re still limited in what we can order, so no MRIs or crazy stuff, that has to be outpatient. Otherwise, we don’t know and don’t care who is paying and how much. We’re there to deal with the emergency, the doctor does not get paid based on what is ordered, and neither do the nurses, so we have no interest in that. That’s an issue for some dude in a cube elsewhere.

        1. I don’t want to start an argument and get way off-topic, but I’ve dealt with medical treatments and bills for many, many years on the patient side of things. No insurance? Emergency room does the very least it can do to get you stable and out the door. Insurance or 3rd party liability? Katy bar the door!

          I saw this just 2 weeks ago when I took my mother to the ER. They checked to see what Medicare supplement insurance she had before they proceeded with testing; otherwise they were going to discharge her and refer her back to her medical “home” provider. The bills have started coming in – the ER, the ER doctor, the radiologist, the lab, the pathologist who read the lab results, the imaging center and so forth. The doctor and the nurses don’t get paid more – but everyone else does.

          I could go on with other examples, but I’m too far off-topic as it is now. The level of treatment and its attendant bills do depend on what the administrators think you can pay.

          1. Well, you’d like where I’ve worked then. We don’t do that. The administrators don’t dictate care in our ER, and we only discuss limiting lab tests to what is absolutely bare minimum necessary if the patient states they are concerned about cost and would like conservative evaluation and treatment. They’re made aware of the potential issues and strongly advised if the level of assessment they’re requesting is less than what we consider best practice for their presenting complaint and condition. And the lab, radiologist, and pathologist don’t dictate care either. We write orders, they review the results. I am really sorry you had that experience though. I can’t speak to other places, but I know for a fact that we don’t pull that garbage. It makes me sad that other places apparently aren’t like that.

          2. Yes, I’d like that health care provider! What a refreshing way to do business! And so completely outside of my actual experience over 35 years as a health care consumer and advocate for my family.

          3. What would it take to get you to move to northern Arizona? Plenty of healthcare openings here, and no tornados.

          4. I wouldn’t be much use, and you can’t move a whole facility and all its staff. And there are no tornadoes here either. You could always move to a blue state like ours, maybe you’d get a taste of what I’m talking about. 🙂

          5. Yeah, I have a high deductible plan, and when I fell off a balance ball at the gym, yes, I know, its embarrassing, I called my Dr. and he suggested I go to the ER. An ER Doc tested me for nerve damage, and an X-Ray was done, and I was prescribed pain pills and a mussel relaxant and discharged in under 30 minutes. The Dr. billed me $180, the X-Ray people billed me $70, and the ER billed me $2,700 for “Emergency Services”. My deductible is $3,000.

            I spent a lot of time on the phone with the ER billing people, and was finally told that they know I will pay, and since many people don’t pay, and most non-high-deductable plans have low negotiated ER rates and mine doesn’t, that its people like me who they use to make up the difference. I am not sure if they were lying or not, but it was annoying. After months, I finally got them down to $2,400.

          6. A “mussel relaxant” used to be a pot of tomato sauce full of bivalves at the grungy old Hoboken Clam Broth House before it was bought and destroyed by some morons who turned it into a plastic run-of-the-mill same-same-as-other-gemutlich-less-sterile-joints. Thanks for reminding me of another reason to be disgusted by peoples’ stupidity……

          7. That’s awful. I am so lucky that my husband is retired military and we live near a base. There are no “incentives” to treat us with more or less care based on insurance or income.
            I do know my brother, who is minimally employed and has no insurance, had to have an emergency appendectomy, and the hospital here had a program where he showed proof of income, etc… and asked for relief and they forgave the entire bill except for $500 which we covered for him. Maybe she can get some relief, as well?

  11. “AT&T does bear some responsibility for having a stool in one of its stores that caused your fall.”

    Christopher, I’m curious if you see any circumstances where it’d be considered “just an accident” and she’d be responsible for her own bills? If it happened to her at a friend or family member’s house would they be similarly responsible in your mind?

    If the stool was defective in some manner I could agree with you. Or if the employee was overbearing and essentially insisted an old and feeble person try and get into the stool. But in the absence of any of that it’s hard to see where AT&T is responsible. If she’d tripped over the curb in the parking lot would that also be AT&T’s fault?

  12. The citizens of the richest country in the world shouldn’t have this hardship. It’s affordable easily elsewhere and it should be in the USA, The money paid on the Insurers, the Adjusters and the Lawyers are more than enough to pay medical bill to every US citizens.

    1. It’s not an issue of affordability. If you read the article, you know she was denied medical coverage due to a pre-existing condition, which we outlawed on 1/1/2014. It was just her terrible luck that this happened before the impediment to her getting coverage was removed.

      1. Universal Healthcare recipients don’t have the medical bill, nor the notion of pre-existing condition. Happy to know pre-existing condition end Jan 1st this year.

    2. Ford pickup trucks in SE Asia are 1/3 less than in the USA because they don’t have the overhead of meritless litigation which takes their profits.

      1. [Citation Needed]

        I think that if litigation drained 1/3rd of Ford’s revenue, this would be pretty widely known.

        1. Litigation and other costs, such as certain costly government regulations which are not existing in SE Asia.

          1. Well, that’s not nearly the same thing now, is it? At all. Litigation “litigation and costly government regulations”

            Yeah, life would be so much better if we didn’t have those meddling folks at OSHA keeping our factories better than Sri Lankan sweatshops. And curse those busybodies at the EPA that have rules in place so you can actually swim in a river, as opposed to watching it catch on fire or make you sick if you eat one of the fish from it.

            Oh, and still: [Citation Needed]. Manufacturing costs for automobiles are indeed lower in Asia, but if they were 1/3rd lower, why on earth would there be Korean automakers opening up plants here? Shipping costs are not that high…

          2. Korea is in NE Asia.

            I didn’t make an argument for or against OSHA and EPA; I merely stated reality.

          3. I hate to keep repeating myself but: [Citation Needed]

            The only Ford trucks sold in the US are the F-Series. I checked the list, and there aren’t any F-Series plants in Asia at all! (They are made in Brazil, Missouri, Venezuela, Mexico, and of course Dearborn.) The Ranger is made in Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, but it isn’t sold here any more. I can certainly imagine an Asia-market Ranger being a lot cheaper than a US-market F-series, even if both trucks were made across the street from each other in Michigan.

          4. The POINT of this discourse is that stuff is 1/3 cheaper there due to absence of frivolous litigation and onerous government regulatory taxes / fees. We are over-litigated, and over-taxed, IMO.

          5. Your first post said, and I quote: “Ford pickup trucks in SE Asia are 1/3 less than in the USA because they don’t have the overhead of meritless litigation which takes their profits.” (You quickly expanded it beyond just “litigation”)

            First, I’ve mentioned three times that a source might be nice, yet you keep not providing one. I’d be very interested to see a chart showing an F-series being 1/3 cheaper in SE Asia, and I certainly can’t find anything even remotely like that. It’d be nice if the source also mentioned Ford’s profit margin on SE Asia F-series sales.

            Next, if you aren’t referring to manufacturing cost (which is what I thought you meant) what “regulations, taxes, and fees” are so high as to cause such a dramatic cost difference vs. the same product in SE Asia? (Litigation is a rounding error.) It can’t be emissions rules; Ford doesn’t have special mega-cheap super-polluting engines that it puts on export trucks. They might have some older units they use, but nothing that dramatic. Export trucks might have fewer airbags, shaving a few hundred, but the biggest (and most expensive) part contributing to safety is the frame, which is not going to be different on an export truck; too expensive to develop. It won’t be a difference in labor rules, since SE Asia doesn’t produce any F-Series. Same with environmental rules as they relate to manufacturing. I don’t think it’s taxes; they pay taxes there too… Vehicle purchases in the US are actually rather lightly taxed compared to every other county I’m aware of.

            In the interest of research, I figured I’d at least check out the list prices (which may or may not have anything to do with selling prices) for whatever the local base model of the F-series is in SE Asia, so I started looking at the Ford website in a bunch the countries there:
            Thailand: They don’t sell it.
            Vietnam: They don’t sell it.
            Singapore: They don’t sell it.
            Philippines: They don’t sell it.
            Sri Lanka: They don’t sell it.
            Indonesia: They don’t sell it.
            Bangladesh: They don’t sell it.
            India: They don’t sell it.
            China: They don’t sell it.
            Taiwan: They don’t sell it.
            Cambodia: Finally! (Why it’s sold there, of all places and not the rest of SE Asia, is beyond me…) No prices listed. (But cursory research online showed import duties of 100% or more being pretty common.)
            Laos: They sell it too! I’m on a roll! Alas, no prices listed. (But they do charge 30% import duties, even higher than the US “chicken tax” on trucks.)

            So, in precisely which places is the F-150 1/3 cheaper out the door than the US? Because I looked at nearly every country in SE Asia, and haven’t found one yet…

          6. I iterate: the point is that STUFF IN GENERAL is less expensive there because of less litigation and less regulation, among other factors.

            Have a sparkling day!

          7. You didn’t say “stuff” in your original post; you specifically said “Ford Pickup Trucks in SE Asia” were 1/3 less expensive there. Did you simply completely make that up?

            I used the F-series as an example for the simple reason that it’s the only Ford pickup sold in the US; what else could you possibly have been referring to?

          8. Don’t you read / comprehend English? Were you born fixated, or did you attend Obtuse University to get your PhD in Puerile Stubbornness?

            I’ve already told you what the point of the exercise is, and you keep fixating on your Found On Road Dead pieces of junque. I’ve told you that I’m not interested in that junque [manufactured in the USA in a company by over-paid dope-using alcoholics where quality is the pits], and you insist in arguing a non-issue. The point, ONCE AGAIN, is that stuff is cheaper there because of less litigation and less onerous regulations.

            Consequently, as far as concerns this issue, you are DISMISSED!

            Have a wonderful day, and may the Lord give His blessings to you.

          9. Wow. That’s impressive. You made a concise statement that was completely, totally, demonstrably false in every way. But somehow it’s MY fault that I missed your “point”, which is some vague reference to “stuff”. (If your first post HAD been instead, some general statement about how stuff often costs less abroad than it does at home due to regulatory and tax burdens, I wouldn’t even have bothered to reply, as it’s likely quite true.)

            I wasn’t correcting your grammar or spelling here… It’s as if I made a post saying “Whole wheat bread eaters live 5x as long as white bread eaters.” and when called out on it (because it’s completely made up), say that my “point” was that whole wheat is good for you and you should simply ignore the factoid I pulled out of thin air.

  13. I’m wondering how many other claims against companies the OP has filed. Kinda sounds like a slip and fall artist by the way the letter is written…

    I mean, okay, you fell off the stool and broke your wrist. The stool wasn’t defective, you’re just a klutz. Then, the mention of the long term problems of a wrist break are the red flag that this person has done this sort of thing before.

    …and if you don’t have money and can’t/won’t buy insurance, do you need a $500 phone with an expensive monthly contract?


    1. I agree with a large chunk of this, but the fact that she couldn’t get medical coverage sounds legit. I do strongly advise that people who are clumsy consider accidental injury insurance. I think, if I remember, I’m covered up to $5000. Not that I’m particularly clumsy or fragile, but my mom has had me covered just on the off-chance that something *does* happen for a long time, and the first time I need it and don’t have $5000 laying around to throw away on copays and deductibles when I could be using it to pay my bills, it’ll be worth it. I do bump into things and fall sometimes, but I also have sorta incredible bone density and hardness, so it never really amounts to more than some bruises.

    2. If she has filed other suits, the insurance administrators would have found them, which would factor in their handling of her claim. Every insurance company has a subscription to medical and legal clearinghouses, so that they can run a claimant’s name through those, to see if they appear anywhere else.

  14. This belongs in the hands of an attorney, not an advocate. There are plenty of excellent professionals that specialize in these cases.

  15. Is it too much to ask stores to have chairs? Why should anyone have to climb UP onto a seat? The customer didn’t ask to sit down; it was suggested she sit down. Thus, AT&T is somewhat responsible, as Chris mentioned. Every homeowner should have insurance in case someone injures themselves on their property. Why doesn’t this store have such insurance? Of course people bear some responsibility for their actions, but this does appear to be an instance where the store bears responsibility as well.

    1. If she hadn’t been offered a seat to sign paperwork and whatnot, we’d be asking where their manners are though. It’s courteous to offer people a seat because people often feel obligated to stand until offered.

    2. I would think offering a customer a seat during a process that takes a while (like renewing a cell phone contract and getting the phone activated) would be considered by most people as “common courtesy”; not an event that triggers legal liability.

      And liability insurance covers somebody injuring themselves on your property when it’s your fault. Just because somebody is hurt or injured while they happen to be present on your property doesn’t mean that liability insurance will pay their bills.

    3. Some accidents are caused by the injured, some are caused by acts of god (in the legal sense, not the religious), and others are caused by negligence of the property owner. Where is the negligence on AT&T’s part? That they had a stool there instead of a chair is not negligence. Ms. Smith-Stage was not forced to sit on the stool. Surely, AT&T would have still sold the phone to her had she decided to remain standing or asked for a different chair. If the chair were broken and the employees knew about it, then you could assign fault.

    4. No, honestly it isn’t Suggesting someone sit down does not negligent unless the employee had reason to know or believe that the chair was deficient or that sitting on the chair was likely to lead to an injury.

  16. Sorry, lady. AT&T is not responsible for your being a klutz. Unless that stool was defective or damaged in some way this is totally on you.

  17. I don’t think it has been determined whose fault it is but merely providing a chair or stool should not mean you are responsible if someone falls off it. If someone gets tired after waiting for service and there is NOT a chair, and the person falls down, is the company liable for not having a stool?

    I don’t understand the connection between the medical bills and AT&T in this instance.

    I am sorry that she fell and sorry that the bills are not covered, but this doesn’t seem like an AT&T issue to me.

    1. Hear, hear. The narrative did not outline any negligence on AT&T’s part or mention that the chair is faulty in some way. If Ms. Smith-Stage had fallen off a stump in the forest, who would she call to ask for her medical bills be covered?

      Now, if the store employee had said something like, “oops, that chair is broken and we meant to take it to the back,” then I could see where AT&T would be at fault and their insurance should cover the claim. Alternatively, if the chair was badly designed and caused many people to have accidents, then Ms. Smith-Stage could make a claim to the manufacturer for a faulty product.

  18. I appreciate Elliott’s sentiments on the issue, but considering how often travel insurance comes up on this forum, I think he’s being a little insensitive about the situation insurance companies face. Imagine if travel insurance wasn’t allowed to deny coverage to people ALREADY in bad situations. A woman books a non-refundable ticket and she gets sick and wants to cancel. So she calls the travel insurance company and says she wants to buy insurance on the spot and she’s sick so they can refund all her money, right?

    What would happen to the premiums for travel insurance if that were legal?

    Medical insurance has gotten mixed up with medical PLANS. Medical plans are basically prepaid coverage (usually at work) where the employer covers checkups, etc. and the insurance negotiates reasonable rates with the hospital and doctors. Without an arrangement, the doctors and hospital make up ridiculous rates and then make the patient try to haggle them down. THAT’S a problem. It’s like restaurants not posting their food prices and then sending you the check after you’ve eaten (and this happens sometimes!) That practice should be stopped.

  19. I have no idea if AT&T was negligent or not, we’d need a lot more information. But this isn’t an issue for a consumer advocate. She needs a lawyer.

    1. I agree. We don’t necessarily know the whole story. It would depend on if AT&T (or perhaps a franchisee of AT&T? sometimes those stores are franchises) was negligent. If you are in a grocery store, and slip on liquid/banana peel/whatever that the store hadn’t cleaned up yet, the grocery store is responsible. So, was the floor slick, so that sitting in a high stool could potentially send the stool backwards and the customer falls to the floor? Was the stool unstable and it fell over? We don’t know. If the conditions were the fault of the store (slick floor, broken stool not replaced), the store is negligent. If the construction of the stool is the problem, then the store would still pay and their insurance company would subrogate with the stool manufacturer to be repaid.

  20. I voted “no.” Most respondents did as well, but I noticed that 31% voted “yes,” and while I have nothing new to add to the substance of the remarks already posted, I note that
    there were few of the “yes” voters making comment. I’d like to comment on them:

    Those who saw vendor liability in this situation are the litigious minded people who must feel that any untoward occurrence, regardless of liability, is reason for compensation.

    They are the ones responsible for playing on the sympathy of juries who award claims based upon their assumption that the corporation is always liable and the “poor, defenseless customer,” always deserving of an award for merely having suffered. They, and the
    contingent fee arrangements are the reasons for the high premiums we all pay.

  21. i’m undecided about this one. back in about 1991 i walked into a grocery store one evening after it had been raining, and there were no floor mats in front of the door. as soon as my wet shoes hit the the slick floor inside the store, my feet went out from under me and i landed hard on my rear, and on my left hand and elbow, which i’d put out behind me. a checker and an assistant manager immediately came rushing up to me to see if i was alright and help me up again. at that point, i was mostly just embarrassed for having fallen, so i assured them i was fine, and went on my way.
    unfortunately, by the next day, my left elbow was hurting terribly, and when the pain continued, i went to a doctor to get an x-ray to find out whether i’d cracked or broken my elbow. it turned out i’d only jammed it badly, but i still had the bill from the doctor, so i called the store and spoke to a manager. all i wanted was reimbursement for my medical bills, and since two employees had seen me fall, they gave me the name and address of the department in their corporate office to file a claim. i sent copies of the medical bills, and they promptly sent me a check.
    now, maybe they were just glad that i didn’t want to claim negligence (they should have had floor mats, or at the very least, “wet floor” signs, in front of the door), but they were courteous and prompt in reimbursing me.

    1. But THEY would have been at fault for the lack of floor mats, or cleaning up the area, or putting out at the very least warning signs. Had you tripped over your own feet, they would not be.

  22. another “IT’S NOT MY FAULT” whinge.
    Does anyone in USA take responsibility for their own silly actions.
    Are you disabled ? Can’t you even sit on a stool ?

  23. Oh brother. Why would a store have any liability in a case like this? The store surely has no responsibility here. That’s why people buy insurance, to protect them if they injure themselves.

  24. If there was something wrong with the stool or the floor or something else in the store that caused the fall, then AT&T should be responsible for the LW’s bills. But there’s nothing published here that indicates exactly what caused the fall-only that the LW was asked to sit on a stool and fell. Based on what’s actually in the column, there are no indications that anything other than the LW not being careful caused her to fall.

  25. Not too long after the infamous McDonald’s coffee case (and there is a LOT most people don’t know about that case – – see the documentary “Hot Coffee”, it will really open up your eyes), I was in a McDonald’s restroom with the paper towel “pull down” rolls. When I pulled down, the entire device came off the wall and hit my left foot. It hurt so bad, I thought it was broken. My first thought was NOT “I’d better call my lawyer and sue”, it was “I better get out of here before they make me pay for this.” For too many people in this country, the lines between where your responsibility ends for your actions and where corporate responsibility begins have become too blurred – – or wiped out completely.

    My personal opinion on this? If an employee had pulled the stool out from under her, or the stool was situated in some way to be less than stable, then possibly the store or employee would be liable. But just getting onto a stool by yourself, unassisted, and you slip and fall? That’s on you. There is no corporate responsibility for being a klutz.

  26. I also fell at an ATT store, the same stool is the culprit, and I also broke my wrist. The incident happened on July 3, 2014 in Fresno, CA. . I have been told the exact same thing, they are not liable, but doesnt there seem to be a pattern here? Surely if it has happened to two, it has happened to more. How can they refuse to pay my medical bills? I only have $1600 ER medical bill costs that are unpaid because my medical coverage started on July 7, 2014.

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