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Begin v. Drouin

United States District Court, D. Maine

May 21, 2019

JASON BEGIN, Plaintiff
v.
LAURA DROUIN, Defendant

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE OF THIRD-PARTY PAYMENT OF MEDICAL EXPENSES

          John C. Nivison, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff asks the Court to exclude at trial evidence of the amount paid by MaineCare for Plaintiff's medical care. (Motion, ECF No. 47.) Plaintiff argues that introduction of the payment would be contrary to the collateral source rule and would otherwise confuse the jury and unfairly prejudice Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff claims to have incurred medical bills in the approximate amount of $340, 000 to treat the injuries he sustained as the result of Defendant's use of deadly force on January 12, 2015. MaineCare[1] made significant downward adjustments to the charges and paid approximately $130, 000 (i.e., about 40%) of the expense. Defendant argues the amount paid by MaineCare should be admissible for the jury to consider in its assessment of the reasonableness of the charges.

         After consideration of the parties' arguments, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion.

         Discussion

         Actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are “governed by appropriate ‘laws of the United States,' but if such laws are unsuitable or inadequate, state-law rules are borrowed unless a particular state rule is ‘inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States.'” Chardon v. Fumero Soto, 462 U.S. 650, 655-6 (1983), quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1988(a). “There can be no doubt that § 1983 actions create tort liability with damages determined under the common law of torts.” Santiago-Negron v. Castro-Davila, 865 F.2d 431, 440 (1st Cir. 1989).

         Both state and federal common law permit a plaintiff to recover for the reasonable value of medical services rendered. Justice Alexander, in his authoritative book on Maine jury instructions, suggests the following instruction to govern a jury's consideration of an award of damages for medical expenses:

Medical expenses include the reasonable value of medical services, including; examination and care by doctors and other medical personnel, hospital care and treatment, medicine and other medical supplies shown by the evidence to have been reasonably required and actually used in treatment and care of the plaintiff, plus a sum to compensate the plaintiff for any medical care, medicines and medical supplies which you find are reasonably certain to be required for future treatment and care of the plaintiff caused by the defendant's negligence.

         Donald G. Alexander, Maine Jury Instruction Manual, § 7-108 (2012 ed.). Likewise, the First Circuit has acknowledged that “‘medical expenses … must be proved by evidence demonstrating the reasonable value of those'” services. Mejias-Quiros v. Maxxam Property Corp., 108 F.3d 425, 428 (1st Cir. 1997) (quoting Williams v. Missouri Pac. R.R. Co., 11 F.3d 132, 135 (10th Cir. 1993)).

         Both federal common law and Maine state law also recognize the collateral source rule. See, e.g., Gill v. Maciejewski, 546 F.3d 557, 564-5 (8th Cir. 2008); Grover v. Boise Cascade Corp., 2004 ME 119, 860 A.2d 851. The Maine Law Court explained that .

[t]he collateral source doctrine provides that a plaintiff who has received compensation for her damages from sources independent of the tortfeasor remains entitled to a full recovery. The evidence is excluded because of the substantial likelihood of prejudicial impact.

Grover, 2004 ME 119, ¶ 24, 860 A.2d at 859 (citing Hoitt v. Hall, 661 A.2d 669, 673 (Me. 1995) and Werner v. Lane, 393 A.2d 1329, 1337 (Me. 1978)) (internal quotations omitted).

         Defendant does not dispute that evidence that Plaintiff was a MaineCare recipient and that MaineCare paid a portion of the medical bills is inadmissible. Instead, Defendant argues that in determining the reasonable value of the medical services rendered to Plaintiff, the jury should be permitted to consider “all the evidence that is probative of reasonableness, including evidence of the amounts charged, the downward contractual adjustments, and amounts actually paid.” (Response, ECF No. 51, at 2.) Defendant also notes that the “MaineCare payments made on behalf of Plaintiff represent full and final payment of his medical bills and he is not, and cannot be, responsible to pay the total amount charged by his medical providers.” (Response at 2.) Defendant contends that evidence of the downward adjustments and the amount paid, which is significantly less than the amount of the provider's charges, are highly probative of the reasonableness of the medical expenses. (Id.)

         As this Court has recognized, in Maine, “ʻa plaintiff who has received compensation for her damages from sources independent of the tortfeasor remains entitled to a full recovery.'” Hinton v. Outboard Marine Corp., 1:09-cv-00554-JAW, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7814, *3-*4 (D. Me. Jan. 24, ...


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