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Law School Case Brief

Aumand v. Dartmouth Hitchcock Med. Ctr. - 2009 DNH 61, 611 F. Supp. 2d 78

Rule:

While evidence of what was actually paid in satisfaction of medical bills has some probative force as to the value of the plaintiff's medical expenses, the risk is simply too great that the jury will improperly subtract those payments from the plaintiff's recovery in violation of the collateral source rule.

Facts:

Plaintiffs, an estate executor and a decedent's widower, sued defendant medical center, alleging that defendant provided negligent medical care to the decedent during her hospitalization there, leading to an infection, the amputation of parts of her hand, and ultimately her death. Each side filed a number of motions in limine seeking to exclude certain evidence from the upcoming trial. The decedent's death was allegedly brought on by an infection which she contracted after being injected with glucose in her hands that caused extravasation.

Issue:

(a) Were prior versions of the complaint allowed to be presented for cross-examination? (b) Were damages correctly measured by the amount paid?

Answer:

(a) Yes (b) No

Conclusion:

(a) Defendant could use prior versions of the complaint for use in cross-examination but not to show the complaint was amended. Dartmouth Hitchcock suggested that it may use prior versions of the complaint in cross-examining witnesses who relied on prior versions of the complaint in giving prior testimony in this matter, including by referring to the complaint in an interrogatory answer. Those strike the court as uses of the prior pleading, rather than the fact of amendment, which in any event do not appear to implicate the witness's credibility; (b) Under the collateral source rule, the measure of damages was the reasonable value of medical services, not the amount paid. These courts have generally reasoned that, while evidence of what was actually paid in satisfaction of the bills has some probative force as to the value of the plaintiff's medical expenses, the risk is simply too great that the jury will improperly subtract those payments from the plaintiff's recovery in violation of the collateral source rule.

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