Colorado Supreme Court on Monday handed down a bizarre 4-3 ruling that allows plaintiffs to recover health care costs that they never owed.
The court majority ruled that it's not sufficient for the party at fault to simply reimburse the injured victim for medical costs paid by the victim's insurance. Instead, the court ruled that the victim has a right to recover the original amount billed by the health care provider -- even if the victim or his insurer actually paid far less.
Richard B. Tucker was injured at an event sponsored by Volunteers of America (VOA) and was billed $74,242 for his injuries. However, Tucker's insurer, Aetna, had negotiated a discount and satisfied those debts with a payment of $46,236.
At trial, VOA was found 51% liable for Tucker's injury, but the court ruled that VOA's payment for medical costs must be based on the amount originally billed, not the lesser amount that was paid. Since the health care provider's bill has been satisfied by Aetna, Tucker is allowed to "keep the change."
The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey and joined by Justices Michael Bender, Gregory Hobbs and Alex Martinez.
Writing for herself and Justices Nathan Coats and Allison Eid, Justice Nancy Rice said the majority's opinion insists that VOA "pay a plaintiff damages that neither the plaintiff nor his insurer ever actually incurred."
Rice added that the majority opinion is contrary to "the legislature's clear intent, the statute's plain language and sound public policy."