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Brown v. Shell Rocky Mountain Production LLC

United States District Court, District of Wyoming

August 30, 2019

RONALD D. BROWN and VALERIE BROWN, Plaintiffs,
v.
SHELL ROCKY MOUNTAIN PRODUCTION LLC, SWEPI LP, and JEROMY MOFFAT, Defendants,

          ORDER ON MOTIONS

          NANCY D. FREUDENTHAL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The Court has before it several pending motions: Defendant Jeromy Moffat's August 16, 2019 motion in limine (doc. 46), Plaintiffs Ron and Valerie Brown's August 21, 2019 motion in limine (doc. 50), Defendant's motion and amended motion to strike the latter (docs. 55, 57), Plaintiffs' motion to strike the Defendant's motion to strike (doc. 59), and Plaintiffs' August 28, 2019 motion in limine. Doc. 60. As the Court indicated during the final pretrial conference, it now rules on these motions as follows. I. Defendant's Motion in Limine (Document 46)

         Defendant seeks to limit or exclude three types of evidence:

1. To limit Mr. Brown's treating health providers' testimony to only the factual matters contained in their own records (not records of other providers) and to preclude them from offering expert testimony of any kind.
2. To preclude any testimony as to the reasonable value of the amount billed by any provider or hospital for medical services Mr. Brown received after the accident at issue.
3. To exclude any evidence of the amounts billed for medical treatment. Defendant argues Plaintiffs' February 28, 2019 expert designation of his 22 non-retained, treating medical providers is faulty because Plaintiffs include a “catch-all” sentence to disclose opinions on the reasonableness of their charges. “The above doctors” are expected to opine that “all the Plaintiff's medical care as reflected in Plaintiff's medical records produced to date, were reasonable and necessary and the amount charged was reasonable.” Doc. 18, p. 12. Defendant argues this is insufficient under the IPT Order and Rule 26(a)(2)(C) for disclosing non-retained treating providers' opinions on the reasonable value of medical treatment Mr. Brown received.

         Under the Court's standard practices, the subject of this motion is inappropriate for a motion near trial.

Allegations that designations are faulty or fail to satisfy Daubert and its progeny should be brought by motion in a timely fashion. Do not wait and file such objections in the form of a motion in limine near trial.

http://www.wyd.uscourts.gov/htmlpages/judgefreudenthal.html. Other cases from the Court addressing similar arguments of faulty designations for non-retained, treating providers reflect the party raised the issue months before trial. See, e.g., Lundquist v. Whitted, No. 15-CV-148-NDF, 2016 WL 3674695, at *4 (D. Wyo. May 25, 2016); Prager v. Campbell Cty. Mem'l Hosp., No. 10-CV-202-J, 2011 WL 13141599, at *3 (D. Wyo. May 11, 2011). Such motions should not wait until 5 weeks before trial, when there is no longer sufficient time for the disclosing party to supplement their designation without prejudicing the movant. Here, Defendant has had these designations since February 28, 2019 and waited until weeks before trial to raise the issue. Accordingly, Defendant's motion (doc. 46) is DENIED as tardy.

         This motion is also DENIED because for non-retained experts, the party must disclose only “the subject matter on which the witness is expected to present evidence” and “a summary of the facts and opinions to which the witness is expected to testify.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(2)(C). The IPT Order requires a “complete summary.” Doc. 14, p. 5. In addition to the “catch-all” designation, Plaintiffs gave adequate summaries of non-retained, treating providers' opinions. Many of the summaries sound similar, but they are not boilerplate. In particular, for most of Mr. Brown's providers, [1] Plaintiffs disclosed their opinions include the “cost” of their services to him. Doc. 18, pp. 4-7, 11 (February 28, 2019).

         Defendant appears to argue that in order to present evidence of the billed amounts, Plaintiffs had to designate an expert capable of testifying regarding the “chargemaster” rates for that hospital or clinic. Defendant argues “chargemaster” rates, i.e., the rates that appear on medical bills to patients, are rates that providers set artificially high to induce third-party payers to negotiate and pay more reasonable rates. Thus, in the view of several law review articles (and Defendant), the medical bills sent to patients often do not reflect reasonable or market value. For the latter point, Defendant cites cases outside of Wyoming and the Tenth Circuit.[2]

         Plaintiffs respond that their designations are sufficient to ask the treating providers' to testify regarding their charges to Mr. Brown, and in addition that they are not necessarily required to present an expert witness on the billed amounts, i.e., the “chargemaster” rates, because they can rely on evidence of the paid amounts to show the reasonableness of the charges. Plaintiffs cite Colorado law on this issue: Walters v. Encompass Ins. Co. of America, 2007 WL 3090766 at *3 (D. Colo. 2007), and Grabau v. Target Corp., 2008 WL 659776 at *2 (D. Colo 2008). Under Colorado law, both the billed and paid amounts are relevant to the reasonable value of medical services provided. Walters, 2007 WL 3090766 at *2; Grabau, 2008 WL 659776 at *2. Plaintiffs also cite 22 American Jurisprudence Second - Damages § 734 for considering evidence of a paid medical bill as prima facie evidence of the reasonableness of the charge, and for considering a patient's and physician's testimony on the medical bills to suffice. For those points, the treatise cites cases outside Wyoming.

         Wyoming law appears to allow Plaintiffs to risk relying on solely non-expert testimony to establish the reasonableness of the charges for which they seek recovery. See, e.g., Wyoming Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Murray, 2001 WY 63, ¶¶ 16-17, 27 P.3d 266, 270 (Wyo. 2001). However, in this case Plaintiffs appear to plan on presenting testimony as to both the billed and paid amounts on Mr. Brown's medical expenses. See, e.g., Doc. 53, p. 6. As Plaintiffs point out, it is the jury who decides what medical expenses are reasonable. Defendant does not cite Wyoming authorities to support his theory that Plaintiffs must present expert testimony on the “chargemaster” rates for each treating hospital or clinic. Defendant's argument goes to the weight of the evidence, not admissibility.

         Defendant's request to exclude Mr. Brown's medical bills or other evidence of the amount billed for medical services is premised on his unpersuasive arguments to exclude the expert testimony. As ...


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