Can a Plaintiff Introduce Evidence That He Paid Medical Bills Out of HIs Own Pocket?

Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Defendant and Plaintiff was injured. Defendant successfully moved in limine for an order prohibiting Plaintiff from introducing evidence or arguing that he had paid his medical bills out of his own pocket. Defendant hired a doctor to evaluate the plaintiff; that doctor testified that Plaintiff’s “self interest for monetary gain” may be influencing Plaintiff’s complaints of pain.

The jury awarded $20,500, including $15,000 for medical expenses, an amount which was just slightly over one-half of the amount the Plaintiff had paid out of his own pocket for medical bills. The only issue on appeal was whether the trial judge should have excluded the evidence that the Plaintiff paid his own medical bills.

The California Court of Appeals reversed, saying that fact that the Plaintiff paid his own medical bills should have been admitted into evidence. Why? Because that fact helped demonstrate that the bills were reasonable and was helpful to the plaintiff in rebutting the defense that he was malingering. The Court found the exclusion of the evidence prejudicial, reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. Read the opinion here.