The California Supreme Court dealt the injured a serious blow in August when it handed down Howell v. Hamilton Meats and Provisions, Inc.  It is certainly one of the most pro-insurance company cases ever. 

Gary Simms and I collaborated on a couple of articles explaining how Howell will change the legal landscape in the years to come.  Gary Simms brings a unique perspective to the discussion.  Not only did he argue the case before the Supreme Court, but he spent nine years of his career as a senior judicial attorney writing the Court’s opinions. 

Our latest article is Supreme Court Put Plaintiffs Through the Hamilton Meat Grinder.

Here are our views on some key issues.  See the article for how we get there:

Does Howell apply only when there is a contract between the plaintiff’s medical providers and her insurer?

A: It seems so but the court’s opinion is unclear.  Plaintiff has asked the court to clarify.

How does the defendant prove that there is a contract between the insurer and the provider?

A: Unclear but plaintiff should be able to argue that oral evidence doesn’t suffice.

Who has the burden of proving what was paid or owing and what is reasonable?

A: Plaintiff will bear the initial burden of submitting evidence of the amounts paid or owing.  Evidence of reasonable value will not be sufficient.

Are billed charges relevant to noneconomic damages?

A: Generally not.

Are billed charges relevant to future medical expenses?

A: Defendants will certainly argue that they are not.  But that argument will be difficult to carry.

Is evidence of the amount paid by the insurer admissible?

A: Yes.

How is the amount paid or owing to be determined?

A: Unclear.

Do HMO patients recover no medical expenses?

A: The opinion isn’t clear.

Do malpractice victims recover nothing?

A: The opinion isn’t clear.

Is evidence of medical insurance now admissible?

A: As a practical matter, yes.

Can Howell be dealt with by post-trial motion?

A: Unlikely that a defendant would so agree.


Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc.

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