Court of Appeal Applies Howell Ruling to Future Medical Expenses and Noneconomic Damages

Publish Date:May 06, 2013
Summary:
Guided by the California Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc., the California Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District) has held that in a lawsuit seeking damages, the full amount billed for a plaintiff’s medical care is not relevant to determine future medical expenses and noneconomic damages.

Guided by the California Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc., the California Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District) has held that in a lawsuit seeking damages, the full amount billed for a plaintiff’s medical care is not relevant to determine future medical expenses and noneconomic damages.

 In Howell, the Supreme Court ruled that where a plaintiff’s medical care provider, pursuant to a prior agreement with the plaintiff’s health insurer, accepted less than the billed amount as full payment, evidence of the full amount billed is not relevant on the issue of past medical expenses. The Howell ruling did not decide whether evidence of the full amount billed is relevant or admissible on the issues of future medical expenses and noneconomic damages. The Court of Appeal’s April 30, 2013, decision in Corenbaum v. Lampkin addresses those issues.

On the issue of future medical expenses, the Court of Appeal observed that the argument that the full amount billed for past medical services is relevant to the reasonable value of future medical services assumes that the full amount billed for past medical services is relevant to the value of those past medical services. The court reasoned that Howell negates such an assumption and precludes the argument. The court’s opinion states, “We therefore conclude that the full amount billed for past medical services is not relevant to the amount of future medical expenses and is inadmissible for that purpose.”

On the related question of whether the full amount billed can support an expert opinion, the Court of Appeal relied on the rule that the full amount billed for past medical services is not relevant to the value of the services provided and responded, “Evidence of the full amount billed for past medical services provided to plaintiffs therefore cannot support an expert opinion on the reasonable value of future medical services.”

On the issue of noneconomic damages, the court concluded “that evidence of the full amount billed is not admissible for the purpose of providing plaintiff’s counsel an argumentative construct to assist the jury in its difficult task of determining the amount of noneconomic damages and is inadmissible for the purpose of proving noneconomic damages.”

PCI joined with other insurer associations in filing an amicus brief in this case. The brief argued that the full amount billed for past medical services provided to the plaintiff is inadmissible to prove future medical expenses and noneconomic damages.

The Court of Appeal’s opinion in Corenbaum v. Lampkin is available at www.courts.ca.gov      

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