Medina County Courthouse

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ohio Supreme Court Case: Robinson v. Bates

The Ohio Supreme Court issued a new case yesterday that will impact personal injury litigation in Ohio. The case, Robinson v. Bates, 112 Ohio St.3d 17, 2006-Ohio-6362, has the following two paragraphs in the opinion syllabus:

1. Both an original medical bill rendered and the amount accepted as full
payment are admissible to prove the reasonableness and necessity of
charges rendered for medical and hospital care. (Wagner v. McDaniels
(1984), 9 Ohio St.3d 184, 9 OBR 469, 459 N.E.2d 561, followed.)

2. Any difference between an original medical bill and the amount accepted
as full payment for the bill is not a "benefit" under the collateral-source

The case came to the Ohio Supreme Court on a discretionary appeal from the Hamilton County Court of Appeals. Robinson, who was a tenant of Bates, tripped and fell over a concrete footer that had been exposed during construction by a contractor hired by Bates's son. Robinson knew that the construction work was taking place since she lived at the residence where the work was occurring . At trial Robinson proffered medical bills in the amount of $1919.00. She stipulated that the providers had accepted as payment in full the $1350.43 tendered by her medical insurance provider. Bates's attorney argued that the difference between the amount billed and the amount paid was a collateral-source benefit and therefore not admissible. The trial court limited her amount of damages to the amount paid by the insurance company. The trial court also directed a verdict for Bates holding that the concrete footer was an "open and obvious danger" and therefore there was no duty breached by Bates.

The Hamilton Court Court of Appeals reversed that decision. The Court of Appeals for Hamilton County reversed the judgment, stating that a jury should have determined the matter because reasonable minds could conclude that Bates, as the landlord, had violated her duty under R.C.
5321.04(A)(2) to repair the leased premises and that she had therefore committed negligence per se. Robinson v. Bates, 160 Ohio App.3d 668, 2005-Ohio-1879, 828 N.E.2d 657. The court of appeals also held that the trial court had erred in refusing to admit the original medical bills. Citing R.C. 2317.421 only in passing, it relied on the collateral-source rule to hold that Robinson was entitled to seek recovery of the entire amount of her medical bills, rather than simply the amount paid by her insurer. The case was remanded for a new trial.

The Ohio Supreme Court reversed the appellate court on the issue of the medical bills, as seen by the two paragraphs of the syllabus quoted above. The Ohio Supreme Court held that since there was a statutory duty of the landlord to repair the leased premises, the case should have been submitted to the jury. If the jury finds that there was a violation of the statutory duty to repair the leased premises, then the "open and obvious" doctrine will not protect Bates from liability. If, however, the jury found no such violation, then the "open and obvious" doctrine would be available to Bates as a defense.

The Ohio Supreme Court opinion was written by Justice Lanzinger. It was concurred in by Chief Justice Moyer, Justice Resnick, Justice Pfeifer and Justice O'Connor. Justice O'Donnell concurred in the judgment only. Justice Lundberg Stratton concurred in part and dissented in part. She agreed that both the amount billed and the amount paid should be admitted into evidence, but she thought that only the amount paid should be permitted as damages. Her reasoning was that if the jury only heard the amount that was actually paid, it might get a distorted view of what was the pain and suffering incurred by the plaintiff. Thus, she felt that admissibility of the amount billed was appropriate because it allowed the jury to more properly evaluate the extent of the plaintiff's injuries. She also felt, however, that allowing the jury to consider both in determining what amount to award was confusing and would be unfair to the defendant.

The entire opinion can be read at

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