Appellate Court Declares Amounts Charged For Plaintiff’s Care Completely Inadmissible When Lesser Amounts Accepted As Payment By Provider.

Headshot of Robert F BennettOn April 30, 2013, the Third Appellate District Court of Appeals published Corenbaum v. Lampkin holding that “evidence of the full amounts billed for a plaintiffs’ medical care was not relevant to the amount of damages for past medical services, damages for their future medical care or noneconomic damages.” Given plaintiffs were unable to show that the full amounts of the medical bills were relevant to any other issue, admission of such amounts was held to be error.

The trial court’s in limine rulings allowed the jury to hear evidence of the full amounts billed for past medical care and heard no evidence of the lesser amounts accepted by providers pursuant to prior agreements with the insurers. A special verdict regarding the plaintiffs’ past and future economic and non-economic damages was returned on June 3, 2011, based on the amounts presented at trial. A motion to reduce the rewards was filed pursuant to Hanif v. Housing Authority,(1988) 200 Cal.App.3d 635, and Nishihama v. City and County of San Francisco, (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 298. Subsequently, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion in Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc., (2011) 52 Cal.4th 541, on August 18, 2011. The motion to reduce the compensatory damages was heard on September 6, 2011, and was denied as the trial court felt it was without jurisdiction due to a previously denied Motion for New Trial. An appeal followed.

In holding that the full amounts billed for medical services are inadmissible, the appellate court first addressed the relevance of the full amounts billed as to past medical expenses in light of the holding in Howell. It then turned to whether the full amounts billed were relevant to the determination of future medical expenses, which was not expressly addressed in Howell. Relying on the Court’s statement in Howell that the full amount billed by a medical provider is not an accurate measure of the value of medical services, the appellate court concluded that evidence of the full amounts billed for past medical services is not relevant to the determination of damages for future medical expenses, cannot support an expert opinion on the reasonable value of future medical services and is not relevant to noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. As the amounts of the full medical bills were not offered into evidence for any other purpose, the court found that admission was in error and remanded for a new trial as to compensatory damages.

This decision extends Howell’s holding regarding the admissibility of full amounts billed for medical services to both future economic and non-economic damages. The opinion discusses in-depth the holding in Howell and its extension in light of the collateral source rule and relevance.


 

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