Malpractice insurer loses fight over health insurance payments after rare patient verdict
Linda Detary sued Steven A. Crane, Paul O. Farr and several other doctors in Kent County, arguing that their failure to timely diagnose her failed lap band resulted in almost two months' hospitalization, the loss of much of her stomach and chronic respiratory distress. The jury heard the proofs and conluded that there was ample evidence of the doctors' failure to diagnose the lap band problem from E.R. x-rays and symptoms, and awarded Detary the full cost of her repair hospitalization in Port Huron. Despite this award, the jury found Detary's "pain and suffering" or non-economic damages to be limited to $8,000.00.
Incredibly, the Defendants appealed the award of Detary's medical expenses, even though they did not appeal the finding of fault. The doctors' insurer argued that since the medical providers settled for a smaller recovery from Blue Cross, limiting the full lien exposure of the Detarys, they should get the benefit of the reduction in expenses. The unanimous Court of Appeals panel rejected this analysis, pointing out that it violated the express language of the pertinent statute. Furthermore, the judges pointed out that if Detary had not enjoyed Blue Cross coverage, she would have owed the full amount of her medical bills: it was not unfair or a "windfall" for the Defendants to owe the full value of the medical care their negligence caused.
Meanwhile, no one challenged the suggestion that $8,000.00 was a fair payment for two months of hospitalized misery and long-term breathing difficulties. This verdict tends to demonstrate how "economic" losses motivate juries more than "pain and suffering" does; in some folks, there isn't a lot of empathy for someone else's pain.