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California Case Law Alert: Corenbaum v. Lampkin

August 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Newsletters

Court Limits Admissibility of Medical Billing for Future and Non-Economic Damages

In Corenbaum v. Lampkin, B236227 (Los Angeles County Super.Ct.No. NC054159), the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District,  Division Three released a ruling on April 30, 2013 that will affect attorneys, plaintiffs and defendants across the state. The appeals court ruled that evidence of the total amounts billed for a plaintiff’s medical care, if the provider accepted a lesser amount as payment in full, is inadmissible when determining awards of future medical care or non-economic damages.

This holding closed an open question left by Howell v. Hamilton Meat & Provisions, Inc. 52 Cal. 4th 541 (2011), where the California Supreme Court held that plaintiffs whose medical expenses are paid by private insurance cannot recover amounts greater than the amounts actually paid, if the provider accepted that amount as full payment. Howell accepted a well-known truth in the insurance community: medical providers often make agreements with private insurance to settle for less than the amount billed, the difference being the “negotiated rate differential.” Howell left open the issue of future and non-economic damages, however.

The Corenbaum court took Howell a few steps further to find that when private insurance settles for less than the full amounts billed:

  1. Evidence of the full amounts billed for medical services is irrelevant to determine damages for future medical expenses.
  2. Evidence of full amounts billed cannot support an expert opinion regarding the reasonable value of future medical services.
  3. Evidence of full amounts billed is irrelevant to determining non-economic damages.

The appellate court in Corenbaum therefore reversed the award of future medical expenses and non-economic damages and remanded back to the lower court for a new trial on the issue of compensatory damages.

All California attorneys should be aware of this case, as it will affect personal injury cases in which medical bills are paid for by insurance.

Kevin Coleman is a certified mediator who performs mediation services throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Francisco, Marin County, Alameda, Contra Costa, Sonoma, outlying counties and throughout the state.

Contact Bay Area mediator Kevin Coleman online or by calling 415-488-7609.

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