(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this car accident case and its proceedings.)
The following blog entry is written from a defendant’s position as trial approaches. Reviewing this kind of briefing should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in a personal injury case present such issues to the court.
LEGAL ISSUES cont.
The defendant, if he was negligent, is solely responsible for the initial injury; liability for the defendant’s enhanced or aggravated injury is properly apportioned between the plaintiff the defendant and subsequent healthcare providers in accordance with the rules of comparative fault and Civil Code § 1431.2.
A second legal issue is evidence of the financial interest of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses, including their fee arrangements with plaintiff’s counsel. The defendant will provide evidence of financial ties between plaintiff’s physicians and attorney to demonstrate an ongoing business relationship between plaintiff’s physicians and attorney.
A witness may be examined on the issue of possible bias, which includes a financial interest in the case. (See: People v. Mickle (1991)54 Cal.3d 140, 168; People v. Munoz(1984) 157 Cal.App. 3d 999, 1010.) Evidence Code § 780(f) allows for the interrogation or questioning of a witness to determine the credibility of a witness, including the existence or nonexistence of a bias, interest or motive. Whether a treating doctor has a lien in the matter is indicative not only of his pecuniary interest in the case but goes to the issue of credibility and bias and the jury is entitled to know of such financial interest. If the plaintiff loses, the doctor does not get paid.
A medical expert may be questioned about fee arrangements, prior testimony for the same party, and a financial interest in the outcome of the case… (Sears v. Rutishauser (1984) 466 N.E.2d 210, 213.)
Plaintiff’s healthcare providers provided treatment on a lien basis by arrangement with her attorney. The nature of that fee arrangement is at issue. As such, the defendant will provide evidence of bias.
Because the plaintiff’s healthcare givers are to be paid on a lien basis, to recover the costs of medical treatment, the treatment must be shown to be medically necessary and of a reasonable cost and the proximate result of defendant’s negligence. (McAllister v. George (1977) 73 Cal.App.3d 258, 264.) As noted above, the defendant will provide evidence that the surgery by Dr. Chiu was not necessary and therefore not the proximate cause of the defendant’s alleged negligence. The defendant also will provide expert testimony that costs of medical treatment were unreasonable.
The injuries sustained by Ms. Smith from the accident were transitory soft tissue injuries in nature, and required only conservative care, not the invasive surgeries that were done by Dr. Lee and then corrected by Dr. Moore. As noted above, Ms. Smith’s accident-related injuries were healing and would have healed under the conservative treatment she was receiving. The injuries for which she complains today are not related to the accident. They directly are attributable to the unnecessary and dangerous experimental surgeries performed by Dr. Lee that left Ms. Smith with previously non-existent injuries to her lower legs totally related solely to an improperly conducted surgery that had to be later corrected.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.