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


In Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc., the California Supreme Court ruled that where a plaintiff’s medical care provider, pursuant to a prior agreement with the plaintiff’s health care provider, 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 is discussed in this post.

In its Howell ruling, the Supreme Court expressly declined to decide whether evidence of the full amount billed is relevant or admissible on the issues of future medical expenses and noneconomic damages.

The California Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District) addressed those issues in its April 30, 2013, decision in Corenbaum v. Lampkin. Guided by the reasoning in Howell, the Court of Appeal made these three key holdings:

  1. The full amount billed for past medical services is not relevant to the amount of future medical expenses and is inadmissible for that purpose.
  2. Evidence of the full amount billed for past medical services cannot support an expert opinion on the reasonable value of future medical services.
  3. Evidence of the full amount billed for past medical services is not admissible to determine the amount of noneconomic damages.

The Corenbaum decision is the latest appellate court case to apply the Howell ruling.

Last month, the Court of Appeal held in Luttrell v. Island Pacific Supermarkets Inc. that the Howell rule should be applied where the plaintiff’s health care was paid by Medicare. The court also explained how the Howell rule should be applied when the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced because of his failure to mitigate damages. The Luttrell case is discussed in this post.        

And, in March 2012, the Court of Appeal applied Howell’s holding to the analogous situation in which the insured employee’s medical expenses are paid through workers’ compensation. That decision, Sanchez v. Brooke, was the subject of this post.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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