The Indiana Supreme Court handed down an opinion yesterday which will impact cases in which a plaintiff is in the United States illegally.
The opinion issued in Escamilla v. Shiel Sexton Company, Inc., 73 N.E. 3d 663 (Ind. 2017) addresses two issues of first impression:
- May an unauthorized immigrant sue for decreased earning capacity damages in a tort action?
- Is plaintiff’s unauthorized immigration status admissible at trial?
In short, the Indiana Supreme Court held that the Indiana Constitution’s Open Courts Clause allows an unauthorized immigrant to sue for decreased earning capacity damages in a tort action. Further, a plaintiff’s unauthorized immigration status is not admissible unless it is show by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff will be deported.
In Stanley v. Walker, 906 N.E.2d 852 (Ind. 2009), the Indiana Supreme Court interpreted Indiana’s collateral-source statue to permit a defendant to introduce evidence of discounted reimbursements negotiated between plaintiff’s medical providers and plaintiff’s private health insurer so long as insurance was not referenced.
On October 21, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled the same rationale applied to reimbursements by government payers. See Patchett v. Lee, 60 N.E. 3d 1025 (Ind. 2016). More specifically, the Indiana Supreme Court held in Patchett that reduced payments accepted as payment in full are a probative, relevant measure of the reasonable value of a plaintiff’s medical care and admissible, regardless of whether they are negotiated (private insurers) or mandated (government payers). Importantly, the Indiana Supreme Court made clear that the parties should expect and the Courts should presume the admissibility of both the amount charged and the discounted amount accepted as payment in full.