Jessica M. Karmasek Nov. 19, 2013, 7:15pm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, in an opinion earlier this month, said a local emergency ambulance authority can't file lawsuits in magistrate court to collect unpaid special emergency ambulance service fees.

Morrisey issued his Nov. 8 opinion in response to a request from Hardy County Prosecutor Lucas See in September.

The attorney general said he hopes the opinion helps to clarify the role and statutory power of ambulance authorities when it comes to filing lawsuits to collect such fees.

"The state code is clear that only the county commission is granted the authority to impose and collect broadly applicable fees for emergency ambulance service," Morrisey said.

According to the attorney general's three-page opinion, state code provides that county commissions -- not ambulance authorities -- are responsible for passing ordinances that enact special emergency ambulance fees and then collecting that fee.

Morrisey explained that the Legislature chose to separate the special emergency ambulance fees from an itemized list of powers possessed by emergency ambulance authorities.

Also, county commissions have a constitutional duty to manage a county's fiscal affairs, and thus collect any special fees, the attorney general's opinion notes.

"For all of these reasons, we determine that a county commission -- not an emergency ambulance authority -- has the statutory power to collect the special emergency ambulance fees permitted by West Virginia Code," the opinion states

"It follows that an emergency ambulance authority lacks the statutory power to bring suit in magistrate court to collect those fees."

The attorney general noted that he was not asked to decide whether a county commission could delegate its statutory power to an emergency ambulance authority.

So far this year, Morrisey's office has written 10 opinion letters, two of which concern emergency ambulance service in Hardy County.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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