A state appellate court recently issued an opinion stemming from a Tennessee truck accident. A Johnson City (City) employee driving a tractor-trailer lost traction and struck the victim’s car. At the emergency room, the victim complained of right shoulder pain. Before the incident, the victim underwent two prior right shoulder surgeries, and her treating doctor recommended a third surgery following the incident. The woman filed a lawsuit against the City seeking compensatory damages for her medical bills and recovery. In support of her claim, she provided itemized medical and hospital bills.
Under Tennessee Code 24-5-113(b), this evidence creates a rebuttable presumption of the reasonableness of the bills. Here, the City conceded to its liability but objected to the reasonableness of the undiscounted medical bills the plaintiff presented. The City sought to rebut the presumption through the testimony of two witnesses. One witness was a doctor who offered his opinion on the hospital’s billing practices. The other witness was presented as an expert in medical billing practices. The billing expert was the owner and co-founder of a medical billing software system. The trial court found that the doctor’s testimony violated the collateral source rule and the billing expert’s methodology was not proven or tested.
On appeal, the court reviewed whether the trial court appropriately excluded the City’s evidence to rebut the reasonableness of the victim’s bills. Under the collateral source rule, a plaintiff can still recover the entire reasonable value of their damages, even if a third party paid some of the total damages. The doctor’s testimony sought to establish that the amount billed is not the actual amount paid because of private dealings between the hospital and the parties. The court concluded that the collateral source rule directly prohibits this type of testimony.