Howell Decision: Past Medical Expense Damages Limited to Amount Paid


Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc., 2011 Cal. LEXIS 8119 California Supreme Court, August 18, 2011

On August 18, 2011, the California Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc. on the issue of whether a tortiously injured plaintiff may recover as economic damages for past medical expenses the undiscounted sum stated in the provider's bill but never paid by or on behalf of the injured person. The Court's holding limits the recovery of past medical expense damages to amounts paid by the plaintiff's insurer, and it excludes any amount billed yet unpaid.

Plaintiff Rebecca Howell was seriously injured when her car was struck by a truck driven by one of defendant Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc.'s employees. Howell had private health insurance with PacifiCare and underwent two spinal fusions and surgical procedures for harvesting grafts. Before surgery, Howell executed an agreement with Scripps Memorial Hospital and CORE Orthopedic Medical Center to be fully liable for all charges. Ultimately, PacifiCare paid a reduced amount for Howell's medical treatment and Scripps and CORE wrote-off the balance.

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