Man allowed to keep jury award from barstool collapse

Man allowed to keep jury award from barstool collapse

By Michael Russell, The Oregonian
October 15, 2009, 3:57PM

The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that a man injured when his barstool collapsed can keep the money awarded by a jury for medical bills even though his bills had already been paid.

George White had to be hospitalized after the barstool collapsed under him at the Ponderosa Lounge in Portland, owned by Jubitz Corp.

Because he was over 65, Medicare paid for his medical bills. But the total was about $38,000 and Medicare paid only $13,400, so the health care providers wrote off the rest.

White then sued Jubitz for the entire $38,000 and a jury awarded it to him. Jubitz appealed, arguing Medicare had already paid the bill.

But the Supreme Court ruled the Medicare payments could not be deducted from the jury award, even if that resulted in White recovering twice for the same injury.

White’s attorney, Mark McDougal, said the so-called “double recovery” effect can be misleading because the jury does not actually award damages twice.

Instead, McDougal said the law simply prevents courts from deducting compensation by a third party, or “collateral source,” from the damages awarded by a jury.

“When a company injures somebody, they pay for the reasonable value of the medical expenses,” McDougal said.

In the ruling by Justice Martha Walters, the court noted that third-party compensation which cannot be deducted from jury awards for bodily injury or death includes life insurance, retirement, disability and Social Security benefits.

— The Associated Press