Friday, October 2, 2015

Medical Bill Write-Offs Not Compensable

A decision from the Louisiana Supreme Court

We are presented with a question of first impression as to whether a writeoff from a medical provider, negotiated by the plaintiff‟s attorney, may be considered a collateral source from which the tortfeasor receives no set-off. Applying Louisiana law and the principles set forth in our Civil Code, we find that such a write-off does not fall within the scope of the collateral source rule. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the lower courts‟ rulings.

The analysis

We decline to extend the collateral source rule to attorney-negotiated medical discounts obtained through the litigation process. We hold that such a discount is not a payment or benefit that falls within the ambit of the collateral source rule. First, allowing the plaintiff to recover an amount for which he has not paid, and for which he has no obligation to pay, is at cross purposes with the basic principles of tort recovery in our Civil Code. The wrongdoer is responsible only for the damages he or she has caused. La. Civ. Code art. 2315. The plaintiff has suffered no diminution of his patrimony to obtain the write-off, and, therefore, the defendant in this case cannot be held responsible for any medical bills or services the plaintiff did not actually incur and which the plaintiff need not repay. Because the evidence before the trial court was that Mr. Hoffman paid $950.00 for the MRIs, he is not entitled to recover any additional amount. Any recovery above $950.00 for the MRIs would amount to a windfall and force the defendant to compensate the plaintiff for medical expenses the plaintiff has neither incurred nor is obligated to pay.

(Mike Frisch)

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