California Court Limits Amount of Medical Bills Recoverable by Plaintiff

September 9, 2011


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In Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, 52 Cal. 4th 541 (August 18, 2011), the plaintiff was seriously injured in an automobile accident. Her medical bills totaled $189,978; but, only $59,691 was paid by the plaintiff’s health insurance carrier. $130,286 was “written-off” pursuant to the medical providers’ agreement with the plaintiff’s health insurance carrier. At trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff the full amount of the medical bills as damages for past medical expenses.

The defendant made a post-trial motion to reduce the award for past medical expenses by $130,289, the amount that had been written-off. This motion was granted by the trial court “to reflect the amount the medical providers accepted as payment in full.” The Court of Appeal reversed the reduction order holding that it violated the “collateral source rule.”

In reversing the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of California held more