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“I sued a hospital in small claims court and lost , here’s what I learned.” That was the subject line for an email we got from listener Lauren Slemenda. 

She wrote: “I feel like I won” , and we knew we needed to talk with her.

She wants to encourage more people to try taking providers to court over unfair bills. 

“If everybody that they screw stands up,” she says, “They can’t afford to pay a lawyer to defend against all of those [cases].” 

It’s an interesting idea for sure , What if more people use small claims court to fight messed-up medical bills? Like, a lot more people? , and we’ll be exploring it in the coming months. 

Meanwhile, Lauren’s story has lessons for all of us. For instance, even though she lost her case, she doesn’t expect to pay a cent. 

Here’s a transcript of the episode. 

More helpful resources

Want to try some of Lauren’s tactics? 

Looking up billing codes: The latest First Aid Kit newsletter is all about fact-checking medical bills and includes a section about examining billing codes. We’ll go deeper on those codes in the next installment. 

Dealing with debt collectors: We discussed knowing your rights when dealing with debt collectors with a couple of experts in this very-fun episode.

Lauren got her dealing-with-debt-collectors playbook from journalist and friend-of-the-show Marshall Allen. His book, Never Pay the First Bill, includes a template of a letter you can send to a debt collector, challenging them to document their claim.

Exploring small claims court: We first got tipped off to this aggressive approach in a story we re-played recently: Can They Freaking Do That?!? 

… and followed up with the story of Jeffrey Fox, who successfully used small claims court to force a big hospital to refund a $2,000 charge. David vs. Goliath.  

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