Supreme Court Grants Review of Howell v. Hamilton Meats

On March 10, 2010 , the California Supreme Court granted review in Howell v. Hamilton Meats (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 686 (Review Granted and Opinion Superseded (Mar 10, 2010)). As a result, the Howell case can no longer be cited as legal authority in other matters.

The plaintiffs’ bar had used the Howell decision from the Fourth Appellate District to suggest that the recoverable amount of special medical damages was the value of such services for which plaintiff incurs actual liability, regardless of whether the medical providers subsequently accept less as full payment from a private health insurer. The Howell case was contrary to the Hanif, Nishihama, Greer line of cases which allowed a post trial hearing to reduce jury awards for medical specials based on medical care providers write-offs, adjustments and what was accepted as full and complete payment.

The practical effect of the Supreme Court’s decision to grant review is that the Howell opinion’s publication status is now automatically changed from “published” to “not published”. (Rule 8.1105(e).) Under Rule 8.1115(a), a case that is not published cannot be cited as authority in other cases. The citable authority is now back to where it was before Howell and trial courts are now required to choose among Hanif, Nishihama, Greer, Katiuzhinsky and Olsen, as they were before the Howell decision.

After the grant of review, formal briefs on the merits and amicus briefs will now be prepared and filed. It is estimated it will be between twelve and eighteen months before the Supreme Court holds the oral argument and rules on this matter.


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