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Welker v. Carnevale

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 13, 2017

NICOLE WELKER and JUSTIN BRINKLEY, individually, and CHARLES B. HADAD, ESQUIRE, as Guardian Ad Litem on behalf of JDWBII, a minor, Plaintiffs,
v.
THOMAS A. CARNEVALE, M.D. and CLEARFIELD HOSPITAL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KIM R. GIBSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine to Preclude Justin Brinkley's Prior Legal History (ECF No. 71), Motion in Limine to Preclude Litigation Analytics from Presenting JDWBII's Future Life Care Costs Discounted to Present Value (ECF No. 73), and Motion in Limine to Preclude Existence/Availability of Health Insurance and Opinions/Calculations Based on the Affordable Care Act (ECF No. 75). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' Motion regarding Justin Brinkley's legal history is GRANTED, Plaintiffs' motion regarding discounting future life care costs to present value is GRANTED, and Plaintiffs' motion regarding the Affordable Care Act is GRANTED.

         II. Background

         This is a diversity action alleging medical malpractice and negligence. Nicole Welker presented to Clearfield Hospital on July 19, 2012, in active labor. She was treated by Dr. Thomas Carnevale, the attending obstetrician. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Dr. Camevale and Clearfield Hospital failed to provide appropriate medical care, including that they improperly administered the drug Pitocin to Welker while she was in labor, resulting in serious and permanent neurological disabilities to her son, JDWBII. Defendants deny that their actions were negligent or constituted malpractice. Trial is scheduled to begin on January 17, 2017. Plaintiffs have filed three motions in Limine, which the Court will discuss in turn.

         III. Discussion

          a. Justin Brinkley's Prior Legal History

         Plaintiffs first request the Court exclude any reference to Plaintiff Justin Brinkley's prior legal history relating to a "legal matter" around the time of his son's birth. (ECF Nos. 71 & 77.) On July 16, 2012, Dr. Camevale recommended to Nicole Welker that they induce labor on July 18, 2012. (ECF No. 77 at 2.) Welker asked to delay the inducement of labor until the onset of natural labor or she reached 41-42 weeks gestation, to which Dr. Camevale agreed. (Id.) Welker declined inducement on July 18, 2012 because Brinkley, her boyfriend and the baby's father, had a court hearing out of town in Erie, Pennsylvania on July 19, 2012. (Id.) The hearing was a preliminary hearing for an arrest on charges for possessing stolen property, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and a firearm charge.[1] (Id. at 3.) Despite postponing inducement, Welker ended up going into labor and giving birth on July 19, 2012, while Brinkley was in Erie. (Id. at 2) The testimony of Dr. Carnevale and Brinkley, as well as the reports of two defense experts make reference to Brinkley's legal matter. (Id. at 2-4.) Plaintiffs request the Court preclude any such reference at trial on the grounds that Brinkley's criminal hearing is irrelevant to the claims in this case and would be unfairly prejudicial. Defendants did not file a brief in opposition with respect to this motion.

         Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, evidence is relevant if "(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action." FED. R. EVID. 401. A court may, however, exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Fed.R.Evid. 403. The Court agrees that Brinkley's legal matter in Erie is not relevant to the claims in this case. Where exactly Brinkley needed to be on July 19, 2012 could not possibly have any relevance to whether Defendants committed malpractice, a fact Defendants evidently do not contest. In fact, Dr. Carnevale testified in his deposition that the legal matter had nothing to do with the medical outcome. (ECF No. 71-4 at 3.) The nature of the legal matter would likewise be prejudicial against Plaintiffs. Accordingly, the Court will grant Plaintiffs' motion and preclude any reference to Brinkley's legal history.

          b. Future Life Care Costs Discounted to Present Value

         Plaintiffs request the Court preclude one of Defendants' experts from presenting to the jury JDWBH's future life care costs discounted to present value. (ECF Nos. 73 & 78.) Plaintiffs argue that Pennsylvania law provides that awards for future medical expenses in medical malpractice cases should not be discounted to present value. Defendants declined to file a brief in opposition with respect to this motion.

         Plaintiffs' reading of Pennsylvania law appears to be correct. See 40 P.S. § 1303.509(b) (outlining future damages in medical malpractice cases); see also Nicholson-Upsey ex rel. Nicholson v. Tuoey, No. 4525 NOV.TERM 2009, 2013 WL 8596353, at *21 (Pa. Com. PL May 7, 2013) (where the jury awarded damages for future medical expenses as a total sum and the court subsequently discounted the award to present value for the purpose of determining attorney's fees only). Accordingly, the Court will grant Plaintiffs' motion and preclude Defendants' expert from presenting JDWBH's life care costs to the jury discounted to present value.

          c. Opinions and Calculations Based Upon the Affordable Care Act

         Lastly, Plaintiffs ask the Court to preclude Defendants and their experts from presenting opinions and calculations based upon the Affordable Care Act ("ACA") with respect to damages for future life care costs. (ECF Nos. 75 & 79.) Plaintiffs, relying on several decisions from Federal District Courts and the Pennsylvania Superior Court, argue that coverage under the ACA is barred by the collateral source rule, as recognized under Pennsylvania law. Defendants argue in opposition that the collateral source rule is inapplicable to the ACA, that the decisions cited by Plaintiffs do not involve in depth reasoning and are not binding on this Court, and Pennsylvania ...


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