United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND
DENYING IN PART MOTIONS IN LIMINE REGARDING MEDICAL EXPENSS
AND INTERNAL POLICIES
N. Parrish United States District Court Judge
the court are two motions in limine filed by defendant Target
Corporation (“Target”) on September 14, 2018: 1)
Motion in Limine Regarding Medical Expenses and 2) Motion in
Limine Regarding Internal Policies. Plaintiffs Mr. and Mrs.
Decker (“the Deckers”) opposed both motions on
September 21, 2018. Oral argument was heard at the Final
Pretrial Conference and Motions Hearing on October 5, 2018.
The court will address each motion in turn.
Defendant's Motion in Limine Regarding Medical
seeks an order precluding the plaintiffs from offering any
evidence regarding “medical expenses that were written
off” by their “medical providers” under the
theory that plaintiffs may not seek to recover damages for
medical expenses that were never actually incurred.
Alternatively, if the court concludes that Mrs. Decker's
billed medical expenses are admissible, Target seeks
permission to introduce evidence of how much was accepted as
payment for the medical care she received. The Deckers
respond that they are entitled to submit evidence of the
amount billed and that allowing Target to introduce evidence
of the amounts written off would violate Utah's
collateral source rule.
Utah, “[t]he collateral source rule provides that a
wrongdoer is not entitled to have damages, for which he is
liable, reduced by proof that the plaintiff has received or
will receive compensation or indemnity for the loss from an
independent collateral source.” Mahana v. Onyx
Acceptance Corp., 2004 UT 59, ¶ 37, 96 P.3d 893,
901 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
Unfortunately, the Utah appellate courts have yet to address
the application of the collateral source rule to medical
bills that are written off by providers because of discounts
negotiated by health insurers. Amos v. W.L. Plastics,
Inc., 2010 WL 360772, at *1 (D. Utah 2010). This court
must therefore predict how the Utah courts would rule on the
court begins its analysis by noting that the majority of
courts around the nation that have addressed the issue have
concluded that the collateral source rule precludes
introduction of medical bill write-offs. And in a relatively
recent and well-reasoned opinion, another judge of this court
predicted “that the Utah Supreme Court would follow the
majority rule.” Id. at * 3.
the “majority rule, ” articulated in Lopez v.
Safeway Stores, Inc., 212 Ariz. 198, 206, 129 P.3d 487,
495 (Ct. App. 2006), plaintiffs are entitled to seek
“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.” Id.
court agrees with the Amos court that the Utah
courts would likely adopt the majority rule. In Mahana v.
Onyx Acceptance Corp., 2004 UT 59, ¶ 37, the Utah
Supreme Court held that the collateral source rule
“does not differentiate between the nature of the
benefits, so long as they did not come from the defendant or
a person acting for him.” Mahana v. Onyx Acceptance
Corp., 2004 UT 59, ¶ 39, 96 P.3d 893, 901 (quoting
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 920A cmt. b (1979)).
Because write-offs are a benefit received “pursuant to
contractual relationships” between health insurance
companies and medical providers, they are presumably a
benefit to which the collateral source rule
applies. And allowing Target to introduce evidence
of how much was actually accepted as payment for the medical
care provided would necessarily inject into the trial the
prejudicial issue of insurance coverage-one of the evils that
the collateral source rule was designed to remedy. For these
reasons, the court concludes that Utah courts would likely
follow the majority rule. Defendant's Motion in Limine
Regarding Medical Expenses is therefore denied.
Defendant's Motion in Limine Regarding Internal
next seeks to preclude the Deckers from introducing evidence
of “Target's internal policies and procedures to
show a breach of a duty toward plaintiffs, ” reasoning
that “the standard of care owed by Target is defined by
law, and not by Target's own internal policies and
procedures.” The Deckers respond that evidence of
Target's internal policies is evidence of whether it
exercised due care and that it particularly bears on whether
Target should have realized that the cart posed an
unreasonable risk of harm to its invitees.
court grants the motion to exclude evidence of Target's
general safety policies but will allow evidence of any
policies that specifically address the issue of flatbed
carts. And with respect to those specific policies, the court
will give a limiting instruction explaining that Target's
internal policies on that issue do not establish the legal
duty of care owed by Target, but are relevant only to the
extent they bear on the issues of whether Target knew or
should have known that the flatbed cart presented an
unreasonable risk of harm to its customers, that its
customers would not discover or realize the danger, and
whether Target used reasonable care to protect its customers
from the danger.
correctly argues that internal rules and policies do not
define the legal duty of a business. “The duty of a
business is simply to ‘exercise due care and prudence
for the safety of business invitees,' and ‘that
duty cannot be altered by higher standards prescribed by a
merchant for his or her employees.'” Proctor v.
Costco Wholesale Corp., 2013 UT App 226, ¶ 20, 311
P.3d 564, 572-73 (quoting Dwiggins v. Morgan
Jewelers, 811 P.2d 182, 183 (Utah 1991) and
Steffensen v. Smith's Mgmt. Corp., 862 P.2d
1342, 1345 (Utah 1993)). What is more, just as internal
policies do not establish the legal duty, a violation of
those policies does not “necessarily establish a breach
of duty.” Proctor v. Costco Wholesale Corp.,
2013 UT App 226, ¶ 20, 311 P.3d 564, 572-73.
is also correct that admitting evidence of Target's
“poor safety culture” and failure to observe
internal policy as it relates to safety in general is fraught
with problems. The jury in this case will be asked to
determine whether Target was negligent in placing the flatbed
cart in the aisle. Whether Target was generally negligent
towards its customers or the adequacy of its “safety
culture” are not at issue. Similarly, the reasons
why Target may have been negligent are not at issue.
Focusing the jury on Target's general safety practices
would only serve to distract the jury from the issue at hand
and demonize Target. Moreover, any slight probative value
such evidence may have is clearly outweighed by a danger of
unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury,
and undue delay. The court therefore grants Target's
motion in limine to exclude evidence of Target's general
safety policies and safety culture. It will, however, allow
the Deckers to present evidence of any Target policies that
specifically address flatbed carts to the extent such
policies bear on the issue of whether Target knew or should