Jury Limits Past Medical Expense Award
In a May 2017 jury trial, Michael Regan was able to limit a past medical expense award despite the recent decision in Worley v. Central Florida Young Men’s Christian Ass’n, Inc., 2017 WL 1366126, 42 Fla. L. Weekly S443 (Fla., April 13, 2017), limiting discovery of the relationship between plaintiff’s’ attorneys and treating physicians.
Mike persuaded a jury to limit an award of past medical expenses because the amounts claimed were unreasonable. The plaintiff claimed $100,000 in past medical expenses. Mike asked the jury to limit its award to $25,000. The jury awarded $50,000.
The plaintiff asked the jury to award $105,000 in future medical expenses; the jury awarded $25,000. The plaintiff asked the jury to award $100,000 for past non-economic losses; the jury awarded $15,000. The plaintiff suggested an award of over $700,000 for future non-economic losses; the jury awarded $15,000.
The most interesting feature of the case was the evidence regarding the past medical expense claim. The plaintiff had treated with several health care entities and had undergone surgery at a local surgery center – all owned by the same person. The treatment was under letters of protection. The health care providers’ receivables were sold to a third party at a deep discount. The owner of the health care entities and surgery center testified that they treated patients who were involved in litigation under letters of protection. He said that this created a risk of reduced recoveries such as when juries return defense verdicts. Accordingly, he priced his medical services at up to eight times the Medicare rate. He also said that he sold his receivables in this case at a deep discount because his businesses needed working capital.
We were able to obtain this testimony because the trial judge allowed us to engage in extensive discovery regarding the reasonableness of the medical expenses claimed. By taking corporate representative depositions, we were able to discover the medical practices’ fee schedules and sales of past medical receivables, including the contract which outlined a schedule of “kickbacks” to the practices’ owner based on a percentage of the amounts recovered by the purchaser of the bills.
Mike Regan added a little icing on the cake. He worked with a “coding” expert who presented evidence that the medical bills were “unbundled” and “upcoded,” which further inflated the past medical expenses.
Generally, juries seem loath to limit past medical expenses. Congratulations, Mike Regan, on overpowering that reluctance on the part of jurors.
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