California Supreme Court Limits Plaintiff’s Recoverable Economic Damages for Medical Expenses

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In a much-anticipated decision, the California Supreme Court today resolved an issue that the California plaintiff and defense bars have been debating for more than 20 years: can a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit recover the full amount of past medical expenses that were billed by medical providers, or is the plaintiff limited to recovering the amount actually paid on his or her behalf? In a 6-1 decision, the California Supreme Court held that a plaintiff’s recovery for past medical expenses is limited to the amount paid by plaintiff or his or her insurer, as opposed to the amount that may have been originally billed by the medical provider.

In Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions (Case No. S179115), plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident. The defendant conceded both liability and the medical necessity of plaintiff’s treatment, contesting only the amount of plaintiff’s economic and noneconomic damages.

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