Court Reduced Sacramento Man’s Car Accident Award After Trial, Part 3 of 8

(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this automobile accident/personal injury case and its proceedings.)


In Olsen, supra, WL 2486789, plaintiff was injured by defendant’s motorized wheelchair and incurred over $62,000 in medical expenses. The court granted plaintiff’s motion to present the full amount that her providers billed her for treatment and denied defendant’s motion to introduce the amount actually paid. After trial, the court reduced the jury’s verdict to the amount actually paid on plaintiff’s behalf.

The appellate court held that this reduction was in error because there was insufficient evidence of what amount was paid, “written off” and remained to be owed. However, the court further held that the full amount of plaintiff’s medical charges was properly presented to the jury, citing Nishihama’s explanation that the usual rates billed was a stronger indicator of the extent of a plaintiff’s injuries than the specially negotiated rates obtained by an insurance company.

In Greer, supra, 141 Cal.App.4th at 1152-1153, the plaintiff was seriously injured in an automobile accident. His medical bills were $216,000. Plaintiff’s employer paid plaintiff’s health care providers $132,000, satisfying plaintiff’s entire medical tab. Prior to trial, defendant moved in limine to exclude evidence of medical expenses that exceeded the amount paid on plaintiff’s behalf to his medical providers.

The motion was based on the decisions in Nishihama and Hanif which hold that an injured plaintiff in a tort action cannot recover more than the amount of medical expenses actually incurred or paid, even if the market value of the services is a greater sum. The trial court denied the motion, stating that if the amount of medical expenses awarded exceeded the amount paid, the court would entertain a motion for reduction but that neither Nishihama nor Hanif require the Court to prevent the jury from hearing the evidence in the first instance.

The appellate court affirmed, holding that while “Nishihama and Hanif stand for the principle that it is error for the plaintiff to recover medical expenses in excess of the amount paid or incurred… [n]either case holds that evidence of the reasonable costs of medical care may not be admitted.” [emphasis in original] In fact, Nishihama suggests the opposite: [s]uch evidence gives the jury a more complete picture of the extent of a plaintiff’s injuries. Id. at 1157. Thus, the trial court correctly permitted plaintiff to introduce the reasonable cost of his medical care while reserving the propriety of a Hanif/Nishihama reduction until after the verdict.

None of these decisions govern the admissibility of plaintiff’s full medical bills in this case, since the insurance payments did not satisfy the obligations; he still owes the entire remainder of the bills.

In any event, the issue does not need to be addressed at this time. Pursuant to Olsen and Greer, the court should allow the entire amount of the medical bills to be introduced into evidence and consider the propriety of any subsequent reduction to a plaintiff’s verdict in post trial proceedings. (See Part 4 of 8.)

For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.

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