Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Florida heard a case between the family of a developmentally disabled man and the family’s uninsured motorist insurance carrier, ruling that the insurance carrier was not permitted to bring up evidence of the man’s potential future benefits though Medicare or Medicaid. In the case, Joerg v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, the court determined that it was not proper to allow the defendant to admit evidence of potential future benefits in hopes of decreasing the jury’s damages award amount.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiffs were the parents of a developmentally disabled man named Luke, who was injured when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Because of his pre-existing disability, Luke was potentially eligible for reimbursement for his medical expenses through the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Initially, the case was filed against both the driver of the car and State Farm, which was the family’s uninsured motorist carrier. However, prior to trial, the family withdrew the case against the driver and proceeded only against State Farm.
In a pre-trial motion, the plaintiffs asked the court to keep out any evidence of their son’s potential future Medicare or Medicaid benefits. The trial court agreed with the plaintiffs and did not allow State Farm to introduce this evidence. After a jury trial, an award amount of nearly $1.5 million was returned by the jury, roughly $500,000 of which was designated for future medical expenses. State Farm appealed.
On the initial appeal, the appellate court ruled in favor of State Farm, citing the “collateral source” doctrine. Essentially, the court’s holding was that the insurance company was entitled to argue that the total amount of damages it owed to the plaintiffs should be reduced because Luke would potentially be eligible for reimbursement for his medical expenses. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court of Florida.
The Most Recent Opinion
The Supreme Court of Florida reversed the intermediate appellate court’s opinion and held that the trial court was correct to exclude evidence of potential future reimbursements. The court listed several reasons for its opinion, but chief among them was the fact that the Medicare and Medicaid benefits were not a certainty and were only speculative. The court explained that it would not be proper to allow State Farm to argue for a decrease in the amount owed because the future payments were far from a certainty.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident, as well as those you may incur in the future. However, it is very likely that, as was the case above, the defendant will attempt to minimize their own liability. Be sure that you are treated fairly throughout the trial process, and contact one of the dedicated attorneys at the Maryland-based personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers at 410-654-3600. Calling is free, and we will not bill you unless we can recover for you in your case.
More Blog Posts:
State Supreme Court Reverses Plaintiff’s Award for Punitive Damages, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published October 7, 2015.
Driver Arrested and Charged with DUI Homicide After Fatal Southern Maryland Accident, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published September 23, 2015.