The Third Circuit Court of Appeal in California has recently issued a ruling in Corenbaum v. Lampkin (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 1308, that, in my opinion as an attorney that represents injured victims in California, has simply added insult to injury to a terrible decision issued in prior CA Supreme Court case, Howell v. Hamilton Meats, Co. As I discussed at length in a blog post last year (click here), the Howell decision basically held that persons claiming personal injury in California who had health insurance at the time of the incident could only introduce the amount paid by health insurance as evidence of the reasonable value of past medical expenses. What that decision left open is whether or not a plaintiff should be limited to introducing evidence of health insurance paid amounts for purposes of arguing the value of future medical services or non-economic damages (pain and suffering). These issues were addressed in the Corembaum case.
Background of Corenbaum Decision Regarding Evidence in Personal Injury Trials in California
The plaintiffs in Corenbaum were two passengers in a taxicab in Los Angeles when they were involved in a motor vehicle accident where the driver (who was under the influence of alcohol at the time) hit the cab and then fled the scene. They brought civil claims for damages against the at fault driver and took the case to a jury trial. Prior to trial the plaintiff moved to exclude any evidence of health insurance payments for any of the medical costs incurred as a result of the traffic collision. As was customary prior to the Howell decision, the defendant moved to hold a post-trial motion to reduce the amounts awarded to plaintiffs based upon actual amounts paid by insurance rather than the amounts billed by the health care provider. The court granted both motions and allowed the plaintiff to introduce the actual amounts billed for all medical services provided to them as a result of the incident. The jury awarded one plaintiff $1,834,602.00 and the other $1,392,141, in combined damages for past medical expenses, future medical expenses and pain and suffering. The post trial motion to reduce was held and the award was knocked down to $1,537,985.00 and $1,108,362.00 respectively based upon the difference between what was billed by the health care providers and what was ultimately paid by health insurance for the past medical expenses.