Can a California trial court reduce a personal injury plaintiff’s recovery for medical expenses to reflect the amount actually paid by his health insurer?  That question matters a lot to attorneys, parties and insurers, trying to value claims and where appropriate, seek settlements in thousands of cases every day.

For twenty years, the answer under California law was "yes," as held in Hanif v. Housing Authority (1988) 200 Cal.App.3d 635 and Nishihama v. City and County of San Francisco (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 298.  In November, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal held that the answer was "no."  Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc. [pdf] (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 686.

On March 10, 2010, the California Supreme Court agreed to review Howell and resolve the conflict.  By virtue of the Court’s order, Howell is automatically depublished and non-citable, making Hanif and Nishihama the only precedent on this important question until the Supreme Court speaks in Howell.