Earlier today, the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Three, issued its opinion in the matter of Corenbaum v. Lampkin, holding, inter alia, that “evidence of the full amount billed [for past medical services] is . . . inadmissible for the purpose of proving noneconomic damages.” The decision is highly significant inasmuch as it rejects the contention made by many in the plaintiffs’ bar, and some courts, that the gross amount of medical charges, as opposed to the amount actually paid for the services and which the plaintiff is responsible for reimbursing, bears some relationship to the patient’s pain and suffering, and is thus relevant and admissible for the purpose of determining general damages. This decision interprets a portion of the California Supreme Court’s decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats, (2011) 52 Cal. 4th 541, which many commentators have felt was unclear.
It has been this writer’s opinion that several courts which had indicated an intention to allow plaintiffs’ counsel to introduce gross medical charges, citing their “relevance” to the amount of general damages, were misguided, and that even a “limiting instruction” (that a jury could only consider the gross medical bills for whatever use they might provide in determining the amount of general damages) could not correct the harm allowing gross medical bills in on this basis would cause.
As litigators on both sides know, there are some injuries which result in very little pain and suffering but may require extensive medical care, while the converse is also true. In the absence of scientifically and legally acceptable proof that there is a clear and consistent relationship between the total of medical billings and the amount of pain and suffering an individual has endured – proof I have yet to see presented – it appears evidence of the full amount billed by a medical provider for past medical services will be inadmissible for virtually any purpose in a personal injury trial, at least within the Second Appellate District.
Keep an eye on these pages for further updates regarding whether the Court of Appeal grants a Petition for Rehearing, or the California Supreme Court grants a Petition for Hearing.