A plaintiff may recover amounts billed by a medical care provider that were gratuitously written off by that provider, said the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Sanchez v. Strickland (Nov. 4, 2011, F060582), __ Cal.App.4th __ [2011 DJDAR 16230].
In a wrongful death action, decedent Pedro Hueso incurred medical expenses before he passed away. The jury awarded $1,339,569 for Hueso's past medical expenses and found that he was 30 percent responsible for his injuries. Defendants moved to reduce the amount of the verdict to the amounts actually paid or owed to the medical providers, and the court filed its judgment, awarding $242,660.78 on account of Hueso's medical expenses.
Upon receiving the judgment, defendants observed that the court had failed to reduce the amount of Hueso's medical expenses by his 30 percent comparative fault. After defendants notified plaintiffs' counsel and the court of the error, the court filed an amended order reducing the medical expenses awarded to $169,862.55. Plaintiffs appealed from the amended order.
Defendants contended that the appeal was untimely, as it was not filed within 60 days of the original judgment. The appellate court declined to dismiss the appeal, finding that the amended order was a substantial modification to the original judgment, and that the modification restarted the 60-day period for filing an appeal.
The court of appeal also modified the judgment to add back amounts gratuitously written off by a medical provider. Vibra Healthcare had charged $113,988.58 for Hueso's treatment, and received $66,704 from Medicare as payment with a $40,264.58 contract allowance. The remaining $7,020.00 was written off by Vibra. The court held that when a portion of a bill for medical services is gratuitously written off by the provider, that amount may be recovered by the plaintiff under the collateral source rule. Reducing this amount by Hueso's 30 percent fault, the judgment was modified to increase the award by $4,914 ($7,020.00 x 70%).