Oklahoma Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of 12 Okla. Stat. § 3009.1, Admissibility of Medical Expenses

Prior to November 1, 2011, a plaintiff in a personal injury litigation was permitted to introduce the full amount of a medical bill to the jury as proof of damages, even if a portion of the medical bill had been contractually written off through insurance.

The justification for allowing the plaintiff to seek the full recovery of the original bill was rooted in the common law principal known as the “collateral source” doctrine, whereby other sources of payment of medical bills (such as insurance) were inadmissible.

The courts applied this rule with the reasoning that a tortfeasor should not benefit from the plaintiff’s actions in obtaining health insurance or similar protections and should, instead, be liable for the whole loss caused by his actions. See 23 O.S. § 61; Blythe v. University of Oklahoma, 2003 OK 115, 82 P.3d 1021; Denco Bus Lines v. Hargis, 1951 OK 11, 229 P.2d 560, 564.

Governor Mary Fallin signed into law HB 2023, which became effective November 1, 2011 and was codified in Section 3009.1 of the Oklahoma Evidence Code.

The statute limits the admissibility of evidence relating to a personal injury plaintiff’s medical costs to what has actually been paid or is owed for that party’s medical treatment, rather than the amount “billed” for such treatment. The constitutionality of this statute was recently challenged. The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the statute in Lee v. Bueno, 2016 OK 97, 381 P.3d 736.

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