Court: Burn Victim Can Get Damages for Free Medical Services – Landis v. Hearthmark LLC

A person who is injured in an accident or other incident in West Virginia has a legal right to seek damages and other remedies from those responsible for the injuries. That includes money for doctor’s bills and other medical costs. But what if the injured person doesn’t actually have to pay for the medical services that he or she receives? A federal district court in the state recently took on that question.

ambulance-1334532-m.jpgA.N. was a minor when he suffered severe burns in an accident that the court didn’t describe. His parents later sued fire log company Hearthmark LLC for the injuries, claiming that the company had caused the accident to happen and was therefore liable. During the litigation that followed, the company sought to introduce evidence showing that the treatment A.N. received for his injuries at Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati was provided free of charge. The Hospital generally provides services at no cost to patients, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, the Court explained. It had recently begun accepting some insurance payments from patients who were covered by a health insurance plan.

A.N.’s parents countered with a motion in limine, asking the Court to block Hearthmark from admitting the evidence. They argued that the amount that they paid for A.N.’s current and future medical treatment wasn’t relevant to the case and was likely to cause A.N. undue prejudice as the litigation proceeded.

Granting the motion in limine, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia agreed that the evidence was irrelevant. The Court said A.N. was authorized to seek the value of the medical services he’d already received and was likely to receive in the future, regardless of whether he or his parents ever actually paid for the treatment. “Under West Virginia law, a plaintiff is entitled to recover for the reasonable value of the medical services rendered him because of the injury, provided that he can also show that these services were necessary,” the Court explained. “West Virginia law is also clear that the recovery is for the value of the medical services received, “not for the expenditures actually made or obligations incurred,” it added, citing the state Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Kretzer v. Moses Pontiac Sales, Inc.

In Kretzer, the high court found that the value of nursing services provided gratuitously to an injured plaintiff by his daughter was recoverable as damages in a personal injury case. Given this ruling, the Court said there was no reason to believe that A.N. couldn’t similarly recover the value of any gratuitous services provided to him at Shriners.

Damages calculation is just one of the many complicated legal issues that often come up in personal injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact the Wolfe Law Firm. Our West Virginia personal injury lawyers have been serving clients throughout the state for more than 25 years. We’re located in Elkins, West Virginia, and we represent clients throughout the state in a wide range of injury, criminal defense, and bankruptcy matters. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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