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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ohio Ruling Could Reduce Liability Damages

As medical costs have been rising over recent years, so have medical malpractice awards and so have premiums for physicians’ medical malpractice insurance. Some say the awards have risen disproportionately and some physicians say that their premiums are becoming unaffordable. Some are even moving to areas where premiums are lower or embarking on new careers in other fields. However, plaintiffs’ attorneys are happy with increased awards.

In the context of all this disagreement, the Ohio Supreme Court has recently provided some support for physicians. The case involved was filed by one Richard Jaques in 2005 after he was hurt in an automobile accident. Court records show that the other driver, one Patricia Manton, admitted liability for having collided with Jaques’ vehicle.

How “Write-Offs” Affect the Situation

As the plaintiff, Jaques submitted his medical bills which totaled $21,875. Manton moved to submit information showing that Jaques’ health insurance company had not paid that amount, but had only paid $7,484 for treatments.

The difference in these amounts arises from the situation where an insurance company has a contract with a health provider to pay certain amounts for specific procedures, regardless of what it costs the provider to perform those procedures. An uninsured patient is billed a higher amount determined by the provider.

In this case, the difference between $21,875 and $7,484 was written off. However, the court would not accept Manton’s information and the jury awarded Jaques a sum of $25,000 in total damages. That was in 2008.

Manton appealed and the Ohio Supreme Court has now ruled that since nobody paid the written-off amount and Jaques’ actual costs were lower than what the jury awarded, the defendant may submit evidence giving a reasonable value for the plaintiff’s damages.

Justice Terrence O’Donnell wrote:

"Write-offs are amounts not paid by third parties or anyone else, so permitting introduction of evidence of them allows the fact finder to determine the actual amount of medical expenses incurred as a result of the defendant's conduct. This result supports the traditional goal of compensatory damages -- making the plaintiff whole."

The Ohio Supreme Court sent this case back to be re-tried.

If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, and would like to get some legal questions answered, please call or email us for a free case review.

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posted by Benjamin A. Irwin at 1:29 PM

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