Cuevas v. Contra Costa County (2017)
April 27, 2017
Horvitz & Levy LLP successfully reversed the jury’s award of future medical expense damages in this medical malpractice action. Plaintiff sued Contra Costa County for injuries he sustained at birth. The jury awarded plaintiff nearly $9.6 million as the present value of his future medical expenses. The County appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by excluding evidence of collateral source benefits available to plaintiff for his future care, and by excluding evidence of lower rates plaintiff would pay for his future care under Medicaid or an insurance policy secured under the Affordable Care Act.
In a published decision, the California Court of Appeal (First Appellate District, Division One) reversed the judgment and remanded for a new trial on future medical damages. The court held that Civil Code section 3333.1 (the MICRA statute allowing defendants to offer evidence of collateral source benefits in medical malpractice actions) applies not just to past medical benefits but also to future medical benefits. The court also held that, independent of section 3333.1, the trial court erred by excluding the County’s evidence regarding the market value of future medical services, including evidence of the lower negotiated rates that will be paid for future medical care under Medicaid and under privately negotiated health care agreements with insurers under the Affordable Care Act. The court held that the trial court's rulings were prejudicial because future medical expense damages must be measured by the amount that providers are likely to accept as payment.