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Stayton v. Delaware Health Corp.

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

September 24, 2014

DIANE L. STAYTON, Plaintiff,
v.
DELAWARE HEALTH CORP., et. al., Defendants.

Submitted: July 18, 2014

William D. Fletcher, Jr., Esquire, Schmittinger & Rodriguez, P.A., Dover, Delaware for Plaintiff.

Norman H. Brooks, Jr., Esquire, Marks O'Neill O'Brien Doherty & Kelly PC, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendants.

ORDER

Robert B. Young, Judge

SUMMARY

Pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 12(c), Delaware Health Corp., et. al. ("Defendants") move the Court for an order limiting Diane L. Stayton's ("Plaintiff") past medical expense damages to the amount of $262, 550.17, which was paid by the Medicare Trust Fund, instead of allowing Plaintiff to procure the full amount of her recovery ($3, 683, 797.11). In Plaintiff's Response, Plaintiff requests that this Court rule that Plaintiff be permitted to recover potentially the full amount of her past medical billings, as the reasonable value of medical services provided to her.

The collateral source rule cannot apply in this matter, first, because Plaintiff did not contract with her health provider to accept reduced payments from Medicare for her medical expenses. Second, Medicare is distinctly different from private collateral sources. Third, double recovery by Plaintiff, with Medicare as a collateral source, runs counter to the public purpose of reducing medical expenses and medical liability insurance coverage for healthcare providers. Therefore Defendants' Motion is GRANTED.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE

Plaintiff's medical negligence claim arises out of an incident wherein Plaintiff, a stroke victim residing at Harbor Health Care and Rehabilitation Center, set her clothing ablaze while smoking. Plaintiff was wheelchair bound due to paralysis of one of her arms and one of her legs. Defendants' agent provided Plaintiff with a cigarette lighter, and allowed her to wheel herself out of the building in order to smoke a cigarette. No supervision was provided to Plaintiff during this activity. In attempting to light a cigarette with her one functioning arm, Plaintiff's clothes caught on fire, and she sustained severe burns over many areas of her body. Plaintiff's injuries required hospitalization from May 29, 2010 through November 18, 2010 at three different facilities, including the Crozer Burn Center in Chester, Pennsylvania. There are 245 billings that arose from Plaintiff's care at Crozer Burn Center. During discovery, many of Plaintiff's medical bills were obtained from her providers, which were not located in Delaware.

Plaintiff seeks general compensatory damages for the burns and other injuries that were treated at the Crozer Burn Center as well as special damages, including past medical expenses. Plaintiff's Complaint seeks to recover past medical expenses in the amount of $3, 683, 797.11, which equals the sum of the total "originally stated" charges from Crozer Burn Center. The Medicare Trust Fund has already paid medical expense damages in the amount of $262, 550.17.

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges medical negligence against three individual nurse defendants, and related respondeat superior liability claims against the "Legal Entity Defendants, " set out in Counts I, II, and III. Count IV alleges a separate cause of action that is not addressed in this motion, but in Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, which has already been dismissed. Defendants filed the instant motion on June 17, 2014. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on July 11, 2014. Oral arguments were held on this matter before this Court on July 18, 2014.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Superior Court Civil Rule 12(c) authorizes a party to move for judgment on the pleadings once they are closed, as long as the motion will not delay trial. Such motions will typically be granted where no material issues of fact remain and the movant is entitled to judgment on the law.[1] The non-moving party is entitled to the benefit of any inference to be drawn from the pleadings.[2] Where even a ...


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