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May 2013: Another post-Howell decision, Corenbaum v. Lampkin is a big defense win
By Robert M. Tessier

The Second District Court of Appeal, Division Three filed its decision in Corenbaum v. Lampin, B236227, on April 30, 2013. This is an important decision as it considers many of the practical issues raised by the Supreme Court in Howell that trial lawyers frequently face in personal injury cases.

I will provide a more thorough analysis in future emails, but this is a must read before your next trial if you're facing issues of private insurance paying plaintiff's medical expenses. The Corenbaum court considers several important questions on the issue, which are summarized as follows:

The Key Holdings
1. The court extends the Howell reasoning to bar experts from relying upon the billed (but not paid) amounts of past medical expenses when proferring opinions regarding the amount of future medical expenses. Billed amounts for past medical expenses are not relevant in determining future medical expenses, or for any other purpose.

2.Evidence of billed (but not paid) past medical expenses is not relevant in determining the amount of non-economic damage suffered by the plaintiff. Howell left the door cracked open on this issue. Corenbaum seems to close it by concluding (as did the Howell court) that the billed amount of past medical expenses "is not an accurate measure of the value of medical services" and therefore not relevant to determining non-economic damages. Arguments advanced by Consumer Attorneys that the billed amount of expenses is relevant for the jury to consider in assessing the full harm (non-economic damages) suffered by the plaintiffs were rejected.

3. The court ordered a new trial on the issue of compensatory damages because the trial court followed the "Greer" analysis (which was, before Howell, the predominant rule in Los Angeles County) and admitted the unpaid billed amount and then reserved the issue of reduction to the amount paid for post-trial motions. This decision would seem to put to rest any arguments to the trial courts that the "Greer" method should be followed in any future trials. Corenbaum expressly states that it was prejudicial error to admit the amount of the billed medical expenses. In light of this holding, it is highly unlikely that any trial court will admit the billed medical expenses for any purpose.

Corenbaum is the most comprehensive decision from a court of appeal since Howell. Several Amicus briefs were filed from all sides, and supplemental briefing received. It is a lengthy decision, and covers other issues unrelated to Howell. I would encourage you to read it before your next trial involving medical expenses and personal injury.


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