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Hardi v. Mezzanotte

3/20/2003

ce rule was implicated." Id. at 321.


In the case now before the court, the tort policy of the District of Columbia and the collateral source rule are implicated. The trial court was persuaded that the collateral source rule applies, and where the party pays the premium for insurance, she is entitled to the benefit of the bargain contracted for including any reduction in payments that the insurance carrier was able to negotiate. We agree. In reaching this decision, we are persuaded by our own longstanding collateral source doctrine and the sound reasoning of the Virginia Supreme Court in Acuar.


Under the collateral source rule, payments to the injured party from a collateral source are not allowed to diminish damages recoverable from the wrongdoer. District of Columbia v. Jackson, 451 A.2d 867, 870 (D.C. 1982) (citing Hudson v. Lazarus, 95 U.S. App. D.C. 16, 18, 217 F.2d 344, 346 (1954) (citation omitted)); Reid v. District of Columbia, 391 A.2d 776, 778 (D.C. 1978). The rule is applicable when either: (1) a payment to the injured party came from a source wholly independent of the tortfeasor, or (2) "'when the plaintiff may be said to have contracted for the prospect of a double recovery.'" Jackson, 451 A.2d at 873 (quoting Overton v. United States, 619 F.2d 1299, 1307 (8th Cir. 1980)). A reason for the rule is that a party should receive the benefit of a bargain for which he or she has contracted. Jackson, 451 A.2d at 871-73.


This case is one in which the payments qualify as a collateral source under both of the above-mentioned criteria. Appellee paid a private carrier to insure her for medical expenses. That contractual arrangement was totally independent of Dr. Hardi. Appellee contracted for them independently of Dr. Hardi, and therefore, Dr. Hardi is not entitled to a credit for those write-offs. See Jackson, supra, 451 A.2d at 872. These amounts are a benefit of appellee's agreement with her health insurance carrier, and constitute a collateral source to the tortfeasor. Acuar, supra, 531 A.2d at 322-23 (citation omitted).


Dr. Hardi concedes that appellee is entitled to recover amounts actually paid by her or her insurance carrier, but argues that she should not be able to recover amounts not paid by anyone (i.e., written-off amounts). In support of its argument, Dr. Hardi cites Reid, supra, 391 A.2d at 777 and Moorhead v. Crozer Chester Med. Ctr., 765 A.2d 786 (Pa. 2001). Reid, as amended, does not address the issue now before us. See Reid, 391 A.2d at 777-81, as amended in Reid v. District of Columbia, 399 A.2d 1293 (D.C. 1978). Regardless of any broad language in the opinion in Moorhead, that case involved medical services provided by the tortfeasor itself so that an application of the collateral source rule would have required, in effect, double payment. See 765 A.2d at 788. In Moorhead, the plaintiff sued the medical facility which had treated her for her injuries. Id. at 787. The medical facility was a voluntary participant in the Medicare program and had a contractual obligation under it to accept a limited amount for its services. Id. at 788, 790. The court held that " iven [the medical facility's] contractual obligations, the trial court did not err in determining that [plaintiff] was limited to recovering . . . the amount that was paid and accepted as payment in full for past medical expenses." Id. at 790. Moorhead is not persuasive because there, it was the tortfeasor who provided medical services at a reduced cost pursuant to its own contract, as opposed to plaintiff's. Since the court allowed plaintiff's damages for the amount actually paid to the medical facility, and the facility itself provided services in the greater amount, it is fair to say that the

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