Cal Biz Lit details a great example of bungling the evidence at trial on an entirely undisputed point, to the tune of $57,394.24:

Under 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, when a plaintiff has medical insurance, damages are limited to the amount actually paid or incurred, not the greater amount billed by the medical provider.  It is an article of faith among defense lawyers that if a plaintiff wins a personal injury case at trial, his or her medical specials will be the amount paid by the insurer, not the amount billed by the provider.

After the trial [of Olsen v. Reid, which established medical billing of $62,475], the defendant filed a motion to reduce the jury’s verdict so that it would reflect amounts actually paid for medical treatment, rather than amounts billed.  Here is how the Court of Appeal described the evidence in support of the motion:

In support of the motion, Reid submitted a 22-page bill from Anaheim Memorial Medical Center (AMMC). Page 20 of that bill includes the following line item: “ADJ – MHIPA CAP ADJ” and in the amountcolumn, “46,270.05-.” The next line item reads: “ADJ – MHIPA CAP W/O” and “8,024.15-.” The “Total payments & adjustments” is listed as “55,094.20-.” The page also includes handwritten notes from an unclear source.

Based on this, the trial court reduced the judgment by $57,394.24, and the plaintiff appealed.  The Court of Appeal reversed, based on the insufficiency of defendant’s evidence to support the reduction.  "The cryptic notations the court relied upon may reflect payments, or write-downs or write-offs; we cannot know, and if any evidence revealed the actual facts, they are not present in the record."  Furthermore, according to the Court’s footnote:  "We entirely discount the handwritten notes on the bill. Their provenance is unknown. The notes, therefore, are without foundation and simply have no evidentiary value."

And thus the full bill was charged to the defendant, despite undisputed law to the contrary. I wonder who had the pleasure of explaining that to the insurance carrier.

There are plenty of ways to avoid this problem. Stipulations, requests for admission and, of course, actually putting the evidence on at trial.

Sometimes things get just a little too comfortable at trial, particularly with regard to issues you’ve handled over and over again. Do whatever it takes to look at every case with fresh eyes, even if it means duplicating the same work over and over again. Don’t cite the Brontosaurus!