REASONABLENESS AFFIDAVITS DO NOT GUARANTEE PAST MEDICAL EXPENSE AMOUNTS
A few days ago, a Texas appeals court in Corpus Christi affirmed a trial court’s ruling to not issue a judgment notwithstanding the verdict for claimants seeking additional past medical expenses based upon their medical record affidavits. In Vicent Espinoza and San Juana Espinoza v. Monica Lizette Ruiz, No. 13-18-00273-CV, 2020 WL 2776716, at *1 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi May 28, 2020, no pet. h.), after an automobile accident the driver and passenger received a verdict against an insured driver for $500 each for past medical care expenses. The driver and passenger at trial presented $14,156 and $1,368 in past medical expenses, respectively, proven up by medical affidavits. After the verdict, the claimants immediately appealed to the trial court judge because their affidavits had been uncontroverted. The trial court denied the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and claimants appealed.
The claimants argued on appeal that the evidence of medical expenses provided by their affidavits conclusively proved that they were owed additional compensation for past medical expenses and that no reasonable jury could find otherwise. After review, the appellate court found that while affidavits of medical expenses do support findings of fact as to reasonableness and necessity, they do not conclusively establish the amount of recoverable damages for past medical expenses. Further, the evidence of the passenger’s twenty-two delay in seeking treatment after her initial checkup paired with an x-ray confirming she had no serious injuries made the $500 award a reasonable amount to cover her initial checkup expenses. The Court also reviewed and the record showed that the claimant driver presented evidence of herniation but failed to definitively establish whether the herniation was caused by the accident or was degenerative. Not to mention, the driver also had a twenty-three gap in treatment before he had his first medical treatment for the accident. The Court felt that this evidence would allow a rational juror to infer that part of the claimant driver’s treatment was necessitated by his own inaction. The Court held that the jury’s award of past medical expenses of only $500 to each claimant, did not go against the great weight of evidence, and the claimants’ medical affidavits established reasonableness but did not guarantee that the jury could not award a lesser amount.