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Bozeman v. State

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Bozeman (plaintiff) sued the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (defendant) for medical expenses arising from a car accident.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Tort plaintiff’s may still recover the full amount of damages stemming from medical expenses even if some of those expenses were paid by insurance or a separate third party.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff was hospitalized for a month after he crashed his car while driving, suffering brain damage. The plaintiff then needed three years in a long-term care facility due to the extent of his injuries. Some of the expenses were covered by Medicaid, but not all of them. The plaintiff healthcare providers wrote off a substantial amount of the medical expenses paid by the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s widow sued. Arguing that at the time of the accident the highway the plaintiff crashed on was unreasonably dangerous. The trial court awarded the widow damages, amounting to the full amount of medical expenses. The state argued that the amount recovered should be reduced by the amount written off by the health care providers.

    Issue.

    Whether tort plaintiffs may still recover the full amount of damages stemming from medical expenses even if some of those expenses were paid by insurance or a separate third party.

    Held.

    Yes. Plaintiff’s may still recover the full amount of damages stemming from medical expenses even if some of those expenses were paid by insurance or a separate third party

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    When a defendant commits a tort against a plaintiff they should not be given the benefit of a reduction in damages based on the fact some of the plaintiff’s damages were paid by an insurance company. This rule is referred to as the collateral source rule. Here, if the plaintiff had private insurance, which paid part of the damages stemming from the defendant’s negligence, he would be required to pay premiums. Thus, the plaintiff would not receive a windfall if the defendant was required to pay the full amount of medical expenses. However, since the plaintiff had Medicaid he was not required to pay any premiums. Thus, while the collateral source rule would be applicable if he were to have private insurance, it is not applicable here because he paid no premiums and would receive a windfall if the defendant was required to pay the full amount of medical expenses.


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