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Bermudez v. Ciolek G049510 2015 DJDAR 7065 4th District

Medical damages award to uninsured bystander must be reduced where award is based on amount incurred rather than reasonable value of past services.

Faith Ciolek and Nathan Heacox were involved in an automobile collision when Ciolek was turning left through an intersection and Heacox was driving straight through from the opposite direction. Omar Bermudez was on the sidewalk and was struck by Heacox’s vehicle. Bermudez did not have health insurance. In a special verdict, the jury found both Ciolek and Heacox negligent but only Ciolek to be “a substantial factor in causing harm” to Bermudez. Ciolek was found 100 percent responsible for Bermudez’s damages. On appeal, Ciolek argues the verdict is inconsistent because the jury found Heacox negligent but did not find he was a substantial factor in causing Bermudez’s harm. Alternatively, she claims she is entitled to a new trial on damages due to insufficient evidence in the record of the reasonable value of Bermudez’s medical damages.

Affirmed as modified. “Damages for past medical expenses are limited to the lesser of (1) the amount paid or incurred for past medical expenses and (2) the reasonable value of the services.” The amount incurred by an uninsured medical patient is not sufficient on its own to prove the reasonable amount of medical damages. Here, the damages award was legally incorrect and not supported by substantial evidence because Bermudez was awarded the full amount incurred and not the reasonable value of past medical services. There was not substantial evidence that the total amount incurred was the reasonable value of the services provided. Therefore, the damages award must be reduced.