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In re Estate of Tolbert

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 28, 2018

In re ESTATE OF SYLVIA MARLENE TOLBERT et al.
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Session October 3, 2017

         Appeal from the Tennessee Claims Commission No. T20140069, T20140070 Robert N. Hibbett, Claims Commissioner

         Claimants asserted monetary claims against the State of Tennessee for personal injuries and property damage resulting from an automobile accident with a state employee. The Tennessee Claims Commission found the State liable and awarded compensatory damages. On appeal, the State argues that the Claims Commission erred in awarding damages for medical expenses based on the claimants' unadjusted medical bills. Upon review, we conclude that the collateral source rule precludes introduction of evidence of insurance adjustments to claimants' medical bills. Accordingly, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Tennessee Claims Commission Affirmed

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; and Dawn Jordan, Senior Deputy Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          Phillip L. Davidson, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellees, Sylvia Marlene Tolbert and Alvin Wayne Tindell.

          W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Richard H. Dinkins and Kenny Armstrong, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE

         I.

         The relevant facts are undisputed. On June 27, 2013, an employee of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, while driving a state-owned vehicle, collided with the vehicle occupied by Alvin Tindell and Sylvia Tolbert, causing personal injuries and property damage. Both Mr. Tindell and Ms. Tolbert filed claims against the State of Tennessee seeking compensation under the Tennessee Claims Commission Act. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(a)(1)(A) (Supp. 2017).

         Before trial, the claimants filed a motion in limine to exclude any evidence of amounts paid for their medical expenses by collateral sources. In response, the State argued that the amounts deducted from the claimants' medical bills as insurance adjustments were not precluded by the collateral source rule. Although the Claims Commission allowed the State to introduce evidence of the adjustments, the Commission withheld ruling on whether it would consider such evidence in awarding damages.

         At trial, the claimants produced their unadjusted medical bills as evidence of the medical expenses they incurred as a result of the accident. Ms. Tolbert presented medical bills totaling $11, 118.78 while Mr. Tindell's medical bills were $250, 044.90. The claimants also submitted expert medical testimony that their medical bills were reasonable and necessary. The State, in turn, introduced two exhibits showing that, after insurance adjustments, the claimants' medical bills were reduced to $6, 644.36 and $58, 492.92, respectively.

         The Claims Commission ruled that the State was liable for the accident and awarded damages based on the unadjusted medical bills. The Commission held that the collateral source rule precluded consideration of the adjusted medical bills and the State had failed to rebut the claimants' evidence that ...


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