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The Fourth District Joins the Second District in Seeking Clarification from Florida's Highest Court About Medicare's Effect on Evidence of Past Medical Expenses

May 24, 2021

Fourth District Rejects Efforts to Introduce a Plaintiff’s Total Billed Medical Expenses When Medicare Paid a Reduced Amount


In Gulfstream Park Racing Ass’n, Inc. d/b/a Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino v. Volin, 4D19-3471, Fla. 4th DCA, May 19, 2021, the Fourth District reaffirmed its holding in Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corp. v. Lasky, 868 So. 2d 547, 551 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003), and ordered a new trial on damages when a trial court allowed a Plaintiff to introduce the full amount billed by her medical providers instead of limiting the evidence of past medical expenses to the amounts actually paid by Medicare.

  • The opinion notes the general confusion courts have when applying Florida’s collateral source rule and offers a concise explanation of Florida’s law on the subject; that this confusion is likely the result of aggressive advocacy by plaintiffs’ attorneys to chip away at Florida’s long-established principal that “the measure of compensatory damages in a tort case is limited to the actual damages sustained by the aggrieved party.” Id. at *2-3.
  • Plaintiff argued that Joerg v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 176 So. 3d 1247 (Fla. 2015), implicitly overruled a long line of case law, including Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corp., when it held that it was proper to exclude evidence of a plaintiff’s eligibility for future benefits from sources like Medicare and Medicaid.
  • The Fourth District disagreed and noted that Joerg only applied to future medical expenses and did not address past medical expenses.
  • The Fourth District is not the first court to reject the argument Joerg extends to evidence of past medical benefits. The Second District came to the same conclusion in Dial v. Calusa Palms Master Ass’n, Inc., 308 So. 3d 690 (Fla. 2d DCA 2020). The Fourth District agreed with the Dial decision and joined the Second District in certifying the following question of great public importance to the Florida Supreme Court:
     

DOES THE HOLDING IN JOERG V. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO., 176 SO. 3D 1247 (FLA. 2015), PROHIBITING THE INTRODUCTION OF EVIDENCE OF MEDICARE BENEFITS IN A PERSONAL INJURY CASE FOR PURPOSES OF A JURY’S CONSIDERATION OF FUTURE MEDICAL EXPENSES ALSO APPLY TO PAST MEDICAL EXPENSES?

  • Clarification from the Florida Supreme Court regarding the application of Florida’s collateral source rule would be a helpful tool to withstand the rigorous opposition defendants face from plaintiffs regarding evidence of past medical expenses in the lead-up to trial. In the meantime, the Fourth District’s decision offers a clear rejection of the argument that Joerg overrules the long-standing prohibition against admitting the full amount billed by medical providers when providers accepted a reduced payment from Medicare or Medicaid.

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