Court of Appeals reinstates woman's injury claim after judge suggested "no serious impairment." She can correct erroneous testimony about medical billing status
63 year old Cecilia Peace was hit by a car while on her bicycle. She didn't drive, and the driver that hit her didn't have insurance, so her PIP and "fault" claims both involved her son's insurance company, State Farm. She and her doctors described various objectively manifested ailments around her spine and displacement of a medial meniscus. She testified that together, the pain from these problems significantly interfered with her management of her household, her normal recreational activities and her use of her bike for transportation. She was "pretty much" back to normal after three months, however, and the trial judge granted summary disposition, holding that she did not meet the "serious impairment of bodily function" threshold as a matter of law. The Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated her case, ruling that she proved sufficient impact on her lifestyle to create a question for the jury.
The trial judge had also ruled that she could not collect PIP benefits for unpaid medical expenses because she had originally testified that all of her bills were paid by health insurance. Her attorneys had attempted to show that her testimony was simply wrong: that she was unaware of an outstanding billing from the hospital. The trial judge ruled that she could not raise any PIP medical expenses because she had not billed the insurer for them pre-suit, and that in any event, she couldn't "contradict" her sworn testimony of full payment. The Court of Appeals judges noted that there is no statutory requirement of pre-suit notice or billing, and that this issue is only germane to the question of whether interest or fees are payable on "overdue" PIP benefits. It also noted that the precedent cited by the insurance attorneys related to contradicting prior testimony applies only to a "change" in the insured's testimony--not to an error that can be documented and corroborated by third-party records. Since the hospital billings and EOBs from the health insurer confirmed that the insured's initial deposition testimony was incorrect, she was not bound by that error.