Improper Follow-up Care By San Francisco Orthopedic Surgeon Leads To Malpractice Suit, Part 8 of 8

It is worth noting that situations similar to those described in this medical malpractice case could just as easily occur at any of the healthcare facilities in the area, such as Kaiser Permanente, UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco General, California Pacific Medical Center, or St. Francis Memorial Hospital.

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

Civil Code Section 3333.1 Permits Defendants To Introduce Evidence Of Collateral Source Benefits.

Subsequent to the alleged malpractice by defendants, plaintiff received insurance benefits. Under Civil Code section 3333.1, defendants can introduce evidence of these benefits at trial. Subdivision (a) of section 3333.1 provides, in pertinent part:

“In the event the defendant so elects, in an action for personal injury against a health care provider based upon professional negligence, he may introduce evidence of any amount payable as a benefit to the plaintiff as a result of the personal injury pursuant to United States Social Security Act, any state or federal income disability or worker’s compensation act, any health, sickness or income-disability insurance, accident insurance that provides health benefits or income-disability coverage, and any contract or agreement of any group, organization, partnership, or corporation to provide, pay for, or reimburse the cost of medical, hospital, dental or other health care services … ”

Section 3333.1, subdivision (a) suspends the common law “collateral source rule,” under which a defendant is ordinarily precluded from introducing evidence of compensation and benefits that plaintiff receives from other sources, such as medical and disability insurance. (See, e.g., Arrambula v. Wells (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 1006, 1009; Rotolo Chevrolet v. Superior Court (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 242.)

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

Section 3333.1 assumes that with the admission of evidence concerning collateral source benefits, the trier of fact would take the plaintiffs receipt of such benefits into account by reducing damages. (Barme v. Wood (1984) 37 Cal.3d 174, 179-180.) Importantly, the plaintiff is protected when evidence of collateral source benefits is introduced. Subdivision (b) of section 3333.1 provides that when evidence of collateral source benefits is introduced by a defendant, the provider of such benefits is precluded from recouping its payments either directly from the plaintiff or in a subrogation action against the defendant.

The effect of section 3333.1, thus, is to shift the cost of plaintiffs medical expenses from malpractice insurers to other insurers and entities, thereby effectuating MICRA’s intent of reducing the costs of malpractice insurance and making sure that health care providers can afford to practice in California. (Ibid.; see also, American Bank & Trust Co. v. Community Hospital (1984) 36 Cal.3d 359, 371.) Section 3333.1 has been held constitutional. (Fein v. Permanente Medical Group (1985) 38 Cal.3d 137, 166 [due process and equal protection challenges]; Barme v. Wood, supra, 37 Cal.3d at 180.)

To effectuate the intent of section 3333.1, defendants are proposing special instructions which inform the jury that it may reduce plaintiff’s damages by the amount of benefits plaintiffs has already received. These instructions are necessary for the jury to understand the relevance of the collateral source evidence, and to ensure that section 3333.1 operates in the manner assumed by the legislature.

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

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