Howell v. Hamilton Meats

Justia.com Opinion Summary: This case arose when plaintiff was seriously injured in an automobile accident negligently caused by a driver for defendant. At issue was whether an injured person could recover from the tortfeasor, as economic damages for past medical expenses, the undiscounted sum stated in the medical care provider's bill but never paid by or on behalf of the injured person. The court held that the collateral source rule, which precluded deduction of compensation the plaintiff had received from sources independent of the tortfeasor from damages the plaintiff "would otherwise collect from the tortfeasor" ensured that plaintiff here could recover in damages the amounts her insurer paid for her medical care. The rule, however, had no bearing on amounts that were included in a provider's bill but for which the plaintiff never incurred liability because the provider, by prior agreement, accepted a lesser amount as full payment. Such sums were not damages the plaintiff would otherwise have collected from the defendant and were neither paid to the providers on the plaintiff's behalf nor paid to the plaintiff in indemnity of his or her expenses. Therefore, because they did not represent an economic loss for the plaintiff, they were not recoverable in the first instance. The collateral source rule precluded certain deductions against otherwise recoverable damages, but did not expand the scope of economic damages to include expenses the plaintiff never incurred.

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