SHARON MEEK, as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF JUDY J. MEEK, Deceased, Plaintiff and Petitioner,
MONTANA EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, CASCADE COUNTY, THE HONORABLE JON A. OLDENBURG, Presiding Judge, Respondent
Released for Publication May 29, 2015.
MIKE McGRATH. We Concur: MICHAEL E WHEAT, PATRICIA COTTER, BETH BAKER, JAMES JEREMIAH SHEA, JIM RICE. Justice Laurie McKinnon, dissenting.
OPINION AND ORDER
MIKE McGRATH, Judge.
[¶1] This matter comes before the Court on a Petition for Writ of Supervisory Control filed by Petitioner Sharon Meek, as personal representative of the Estate of Judy J. Meek, arising from Cascade County Cause No. BDV-12-0657, Meek v. Bennett Motors, et al. This Court adopted a briefing schedule and conducted oral argument on [379 Mont. 151] March 11, 2015. Jeffrey G. Winter argued for Petitioner, Cathy Lewis argued for Respondent, and Anders Blewett argued for Amicus Curiae Montana Trial Lawyers Association. The matter having been submitted for decision, we grant the petition and exercise supervisory control.
[¶2] The issue is whether the District Court properly granted a defense motion in limine to restrict the medical damages evidence admissible at trial, and granted summary judgment against Meek on that issue.
[¶3] Judy Meek passed away on January 23, 2012, after a fall at a business premises on November 2, 2011. Sharon Meek, as personal representative of Judy's Estate (Meek), brought this action against the business where the fall happened, seeking damages for survival and wrongful death.
[¶4] In the period between the fall and Judy's death, Judy's medical providers billed $197,154.93 for her care. Judy was covered by Medicare and had supplemental coverage through Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Medicare and BCBS together paid a total of $70,711.26 to Judy's medical providers. The District Court concluded that despite the billing from the medical providers, Judy had " no exposure or obligation to pay any charges beyond those actually paid pursuant to the Medicare rules and the insurance policy with Blue Cross/Blue Shield."
[¶5] The issue in the present case arises from the District Court's decision on a pre-trial motion filed by one of the defendants, Pierce's Dodge City. The motion sought to limit Meek's medical expense recovery to the amounts paid to the providers by Medicare and BCBS, and to prevent Meek from presenting evidence to the jury as to the amounts actually billed by the medical providers. After briefing, the District Court concluded that while there was a split of authority nationally, the legal issue has been decided in Montana, citing this Court's decisions in Conway v. Benefis Health System, 2013 MT 73, 369 Mont. 309, 297 P.3d 1200 and Newbury v. State Farm, 2008 MT 156, 343 Mont. 279, 184 P.3d 1021.
[¶6] The District Court determined that since Meek had no liability exposure to the medical care providers in excess of the amount paid by Medicare and BCBS, the only medical expense evidence that she could present to the jury were the amounts that had been paid to the providers. The District Court concluded that the amount actually billed by the providers was not representative of the reasonable value of the medical services provided to Judy and that the amount billed by the health care providers was inadmissible because it " is irrelevant" to any [379 Mont. 152] issue or to damages in the case.
[¶7] The District Court granted the motion in limine to limit medical damage evidence, and granted summary judgment against Meek on that issue. Meek seeks supervisory control over that order.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
[¶8] This Court exercises supervisory control in appropriate cases pursuant to Article VII, Section 2(2) of the Montana Constitution and Rule 17(a), M. R. App. P. Supervisory control is appropriate where the district court is proceeding upon a mistake of law which, if not corrected, would cause significant injustice for which appeal is an inadequate remedy. Inter-Fluve v. Eighteenth Judicial District Court, 2005 MT 103, ¶ 17, 327 Mont. 14, 112 P.3d 258.
[¶9] A motion in limine can seek to prevent or limit the introduction of evidence at trial, and the authority to grant or deny the motion rests in the inherent power of the district court to admit or exclude evidence so as to ensure a fair trial. Hulse v. Department of Justice, 1998 MT 108, ¶ 15, 289 Mont. 1, 961 P.2d 75. Where a decision on a motion in limine involves the exercise of discretion, this Court will not overturn the district court absent an abuse of discretion. State v. Weldele, 2003 MT 117, ¶ 41, 315 Mont. 452, 69 P.3d 1162. Where a decision on a motion in limine involves a conclusion of law or interpretation of statute, we review to determine whether the result is correct. State v. Petersen, 2011 MT 22, ¶ 8, 359 Mont. 200, 247 P.3d 731.
[¶10] This Court reviews a district court's decision on summary judgment to determine whether it is correct, using the same criteria under Rule 56, M. R. Civ. P. Pilgeram v. GreenPoint Mortgage, 2013 MT ...