Howell v. Hamilton Meats: A Disappointing Supreme Court Decision
Consumer rights attorneys across California were disappointed by today’s California Supreme Court decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions Inc. The Court’s decision dramatically changed the rules for lawsuits by injured persons. The new rules favor insurance companies over the injured person and slashes the amount of compensation that will be paid to injury victims who have health insurance.
The San Diego case involved Rebecca Howell, a former school teacher and professional surfer, who was severely injured by a Hamilton Meats’ truck after its driver made an illegal U-turn. The accident caused a severe back injury that left Howell unable to work. Howell’s medical bills were nearly $190,000 including 2 back surgeries.
Hamilton Meats’ insurance company argued that it’s client should not have to pay the full amount of Howell’s medical expenses. Instead, it wanted to pay only the discounted rate paid by Howell’s health insurance. If Howell had not purchased health insurance, she would have been awarded the full $190,000. By doing the right thing — in this case, carrying health insurance at her cost — Rebecca Howell was forced to give Hamilton Meats a $130,000 discount it didn’t deserve.
This decision is a setback to consumer rights in California but it only strengthens the resolve of consumer rights attorneys like myself to ensure that my clients receive all of the compensation they are entitled to under the law.
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