The California Supreme Court has ruled that a tortiously injured person who receives medical care for his or her injuries may recover medical expenses only in the amount that the plaintiff’s health insurer paid, not the amount charged by the health care provider but later reduced by a contract between the provider and the insurer.
Whether a plaintiff can recover the amount paid or the medical "charges" is a hot issue in tort law. The California opinion falls on the pro-defendant side of that issue.
Plaintiffs have sought the right to claim the higher amount by invoking the collateral source rule.
The California Court said the collateral source rule did not protect the plaintiff, because a negotiated discount – whether negotiated by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s health insurer – means that the plaintiff has not suffered a pecuniary loss in the greater amount.