Ohio Supreme Court Rules No Expert Needed to Prove Write-offs Reflect Resaonable Value of Medical Services

Posted Date: December 11th, 2013 |

In a 5-2 decision authored by the Chief Justice, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals in Moretz v. Muakkassa.  With respect to the medical bill write-offs and the issue of whether expert testimony is required to establish the amount of write-offs, the Court stated in part:

“We reaffirm our holdings in Robinson [v. Bates (2006)] and Jaques [v. Manton (2010)] and hold that pursuant to R.C. 2317.421, evidence of ‘write-offs,’ reflected in medical bills and statements, is prima facie evidence of the reasonable value of medical services,” Chief Justice O’Connor stated. “But whether this sort of evidence requires the party offering it to lay a foundation for its admission through expert testimony is an open question.”

“As we explained in Robinson, that language [in R.C. 2317.421] plainly permits plaintiffs to offer the statements to prove that the reasonable value of the medical services is equal to the charges,” the chief justice wrote. “And we explained in Jaques that defendants may offer evidence of write-offs to prove that the reasonable value of the medical services is equal to the amount paid after write-offs. There is no basis for requiring expert witness testimony that the actual amounts charged for medical services are reasonable, when the initial charges for the services are admissible into evidence without such testimony. Eliminating the need for expert testimony allows both parties to avoid the expense and ‘the usually empty ceremonial’ of expert testimony on reasonableness. Thus, we conclude that R.C. 2317.421 obviates the necessity of expert testimony for the admission of evidence of write-offs, reflected on medical bills and statements, as prima facie evidence of the reasonable value of medical services.”

The court’s majority opinion was joined by Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Sharon L. Kennedy, and Judith L. French.  Justice Paul E. Pfeifer entered a dissent, joined by Justice William M. O’Neill.

The Jones Law Group represented the Ohio Osteopathic Association as an Amicus party in this case.

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