Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Florida decided a case that may have wide-ranging implications in many Florida personal injury lawsuits. In the case, Joerg v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, the court held that the defendants were not entitled to introduce evidence of future medical payments that the injured party may receive through Medicare or Medicaid at the trial.
In the case, the plaintiffs were the family of a developmentally disabled man named “Luke,” who was entitled to reimbursement for his medical expenses and medical bills through Medicare and Medicaid. Back in 2007, Luke was struck by a vehicle while riding a bicycle. Luke’s family filed suit against the driver of the vehicle as well as against State Farm, their own uninsured motorist carrier. Prior to proceeding to trial, the case against the driver was withdrawn, and the case went forward with regard to State Farm only.
Before the trial began, the plaintiffs filed a pre-trial motion to exclude any evidence of Medicare or Medicaid payments that Luke may receive in the future. After considering both parties’ arguments, the court allowed the defendant to introduce evidence of “future medical bills for specific treatment or services that are available . . . to all citizens regardless of their wealth or status.” However, the court did not allow State Farm to present evidence of Luke’s potential future Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs for just under $1.5 million, including an award amount of nearly $500,000 for future medical expenses. State Farm appealed to the intermediate appellate court.
On Initial Appeal, State Farm Is Successful
The intermediate appellate court determined that the evidence of Luke’s future potential Medicaid or Medicare payments should be admissible by the defendant under the “collateral source doctrine.”
Simply put, the collateral source doctrine allows for a defendant to ask the court to reduce the amount of damages they owe under the justification that the plaintiff will be compensated through another source, unrelated to the case at hand. Here, State Farm argued that since Luke was potentially entitled to Medicare and Medicaid benefits, they should be able to reduce the amount of damages they are responsible for.
The Supreme Court Rules in Favor of the Plaintiffs
On final appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, the case was resolved in favor of the plaintiffs, and evidence of future payments was held to be properly kept out of trial. The court cited several reasons for its opinion, one of which was the speculative nature of the future benefits. The court was not comfortable reducing a recovery amount because there was no guarantee that Luke would indeed receive the future benefits.
Have You Been Involved in a Serious Florida Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of serious Florida truck or car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, as was the case above, the defendants named in the lawsuit will likely attempt to escape liability and mitigate their own damages through any means available to them. Make sure that you are well represented from beginning to end, and call one of the dedicated personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Cecere Santana. Our attorneys are diligent, hardworking, and knowledgeable on the law that applies to all Florida personal injury actions. Call our offices at 1-800-753-5529 for a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Miami Dade Commissioner Arrested for DUI; Pleads Not Guilty, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 11, 2015.
Dump Truck Loses Control on Miami-Dade Highway and Kills FHP Ranger, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 23, 2015.