JULY/AUG 2021 BAR BULLETIN July | August 2021 - Page 16

PERSONAL INJURY CORNER

PERSONAL INJURY CORNER

Boarding the Full Amount of a Medical Expense When Medicare Pays a Lesser Amount

TED BABBITT
The recent case of Gulfstream Park Leasing Association v . Volin , No . 4d 19- 3471 ( Fla . 4th DCA May 19 , 2021 ) raises the question of whether a Plaintiff can present to the jury the full amount of the medical expenses incurred as a result of an injury , notwithstanding that Medicare has paid a lesser amount in full satisfaction of those bills . This was a trip and fall case where the Plaintiff suffered a broken hip while on the premises of Gulfstream Park . The trial court permitted the Plaintiff to present to the jury the full amount of medical expenses notwithstanding that Medicare had paid and settled those expenses for a discounted amount . The 4th District reversed based upon Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation vs . Lasky , 868 So . 2d 457 ( Fla . 4th DCA 2003 ). Thyssenkrupp was a 4th District case in which it was held that it was error to admit the gross amount of a Plaintiff ’ s medical bills if Medicare had paid the medical providers a lesser amount in full satisfaction of Plaintiff ’ s responsibility . Thyssenkrupp ’ s reasoning followed the Supreme Court ’ s opinion in Goble vs . Frohman , 901 So . 2d 830 ( Fla . 2005 ) which held “ It has long been established as a fundamental principle of law that the measure of compensatory damages in a tort case is limited to the actual damages sustained by the agreed party .”
The law is not clear on this subject because the Supreme Court in Joerg vs . State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company , 176 So . 3d 1247 ( Fla . 2015 ) held that the Defendant could not put in evidence the Plaintiff ’ s eligibility for future benefits from Medicare or Medicaid or other social legislation as collateral sources . Thus the Plaintiff in Gulfstream , supra argued that that case implicitly overruled Thyssenkrupp and it ’ s progeny thus at issue was whether the holding in Joerg effectively held that the full amount of medical bills could be put in evidence and the Defendant would not be permitted to inform the jury that Plaintiff was eligible for Medicare and was not actually liable for the full amount of those medical bills .
Gulfstream , supra rejected the argument
that Joerg preempted the reality that the Plaintiff was not liable for the full amount of medical bills because Medicare had removed that liability by paying the bills at a reduced sum . In Dial v . Calusa Palms Master Association , Inc ., 308 So . 3d 690 ( FL 2d DCA 2020 ) the 2nd District rejected the argument that Joerg had overruled Thyssenkrupp reaching the same conclusion it did in Cooperative Leasing , Inc . v . Johnson , 872 So . 2d 956 ( Fla . 2d DCA 2004 ). Thus the Gulfstream court reversed the trial judge ’ s failure to allow the defense to put in evidence the payment of the reduced bills by Medicare and certified as a question of great importance the same question presented in Dial , supra .
DOES THE HOLDING IN JOERG vs . STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY , 176 So . 3d 1247 ( Fla . 2015 ) PROHIBITTING THE INTRODUCTION OF EVIDENCE OF MEDICARE BENEFITS IN A PERSONAL INJURY CASE FOR PURPOSES OF THE JURY ’ S CONSIDERATION OF FUTURE MEDICAL EXPENSES ALSO APPLY TO PAST MEDICAL EXPENSES ?
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PBCBA BAR BULLETIN 16