Lopez v. Safeway Stores, Inc. – 3/2/2006

March 2, 2006

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds That the Collateral Source Rule Applies to the Full Amount of Charged Reasonable Medical Expenses Without Any Deduction for Amounts Written Off by Healthcare Providers in the Context of a Negligence Slip and Fall Case.

Plaintiff/Appellee Lydia Lopez sued Safeway Stores in connection with a slip and fall accident at a Safeway store. Over Safeway’s objection made in a pre-trial motion in limine, the trial court allowed Lopez to present evidence of her total medical bills, most of which the medical providers had adjusted. The Court held that the collateral source rule applies to Lopez’ claim for medical expenses that apparently were charged to her but which neither she nor her medical insurance carriers had to pay. The Court engaged in a lengthy analysis of the collateral source rule, distinguished Anderson v. Muniz, 21 Ariz. App. 25, 515 P.2d 52 (1973), considered apparently conflicting provisions of the Restatement of Torts (Sections 911, 920A and 924), and discussed the pertinent law from other states. The Court sided with the majority of courts that have concluded that plaintiffs are entitled to claim and recover the full amount of reasonable medical expenses charged, based on the reasonable value of medical services rendered, including amounts written off from the bills pursuant to contractual rate reductions.

The Court also rejected several procedural arguments advanced by Safeway, including that Lopez’ failure to order a transcript precluded the Court of Appeals from reviewing the trial court’s evidentiary ruling. The Court explained that the issue raised was a purely legal one subject to de novo review. The Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling on the pre-trial motion in limine, and found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Safeway’s motion for new trial based on the same pre-trial evidentiary ruling.

Judge Pelander authored the decision in which Judges Espinosa and Druke (retired) concurred.