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Looney v. Meyer

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

December 27, 2017

Ben Looney, Plaintiff
v.
Heidi Meyer, et al., Defendants

          ORDER

          JAMES G. CARR SR. U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a personal-injury case arising from an automobile accident on I-75 in Wood County, Ohio. (Doc. 4 at ¶¶8-16).

         Trial is set to begin on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.

         Pending is a motion in limine by plaintiff Ben Looney to exclude all evidence of “collateral source benefits, workers' compensation, pensions, and social security benefits.” (Doc. 30). For the following reasons, I grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

         A. Collateral-Source Rule

         Under Ohio law, which controls in this diversity case, a defendant may not use evidence of payments that a collateral source (usually an insurance company or a workers-compensation program) made on the plaintiff's behalf to reduce her liability for the damages that her negligence proximately caused. Ginn v. Stonecreek Dental Care, --- N.E.3d ----, 2017-Ohio-4370, ¶18 (Ohio App.); see also O.R.C. § 2315.20(A).

         This principle is known as the collateral source rule, and it “assure[s] that the tortfeasor does not benefit, by way of a reduced damage award, from payments that the plaintiff receives from an independent third party.” Caruso v. Leneghan, 2014-Ohio-1824, ¶15 (Ohio App.).

         Accordingly, the defendants may not introduce “evidence of any amount payable as a benefit to the plaintiff as a result of the damages that result from” a defendant's negligence from any “source of collateral benefits [that] has” a subrogation right. O.R.C. § 2315.20(A).

         B. Write-Offs

         In a trio of cases, however, the Ohio Supreme Court has considerably cut back the protection that the collateral-source rule affords.

         In Robinson v. Bates, 112 Ohio St.3d 17, 23 (2006), the court held that evidence of the difference between “the original amount of a medical bill and the amount accepted as the bill's full payment is not a ‘benefit' under the collateral-source rule.”

         For that reason, the court explained, the common-law collateral-source rule does not prevent defendants from introducing “evidence of the amount accepted by a medical care provider from an insurer as full payment for medical or hospital treatment” to prove the reasonable value of such treatment. Id. at 18. This is so, even though the amount accepted to satisfy a medical bill says more about modern-day insurance practices than, from the provider's standpoint, the reasonable value, in light of the treatment the provider deemed necessary to treat the plaintiff's injuries, of the plaintiff's medical expenses.

         Moreover, as one commentator has observed, Robinson's write-off rule “will likely lead to lower economic damage awards as a result of the reductive nature of write-offs. If a jury uses the reduced fees as indicators of the ‘reasonable and necessary' value of the treatment, it will drastically lower the plaintiff's economic damage award[.]” Hanson, Ohio's Collateral Source Rule Following Robinson v. Bates and the Enactment of Ohio Revised Code Section 2315.20, 40 U. Tol. L. Rev. 711, 733 (2009).

         The situation would worsen, moreover, were the defense able to argue that the jury should view the discounted amount, rather than the billed amount, as the benchmark for assessing the nature, extent, and consequences of the plaintiff's injuries when fixing just compensation for those injuries (rather than simply as his recovery for medical expenses). Allowing the defense to do ...


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