In the Illinois Appellate case of Vanoosting v. Sellars, the Appellate Court held that the trial court incorrectly excluded Plaintiff’s testimony that she would have sought more medical treatment in the years following the accident if she had medical insurance, but that she could not afford the treatment she desired. 2012 IL App. (5th) 110365.
The case involved a straight-forward motor vehicle accident where the Defendant rear-ended the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff suffered injuries to her neck and back. Plaintiff’s medical bills at the time of trial totaled $18,286.46; however, the Plaintiff did not seek any medical treatment in the three years prior to trial. The Plaintiff sought to introduce evidence that she made $200 per week and did not have health insurance to explain why she didn’t seek medical treatment in the years preceding the trial, despite testifying that she continued to experience pain. The Plaintiff argued this evidence was relevant to show that she would have sought substantially more treatment had she had the financial means. The trial court barred Plaintiff’s testimony on this matter and the case went to trial. While the Plaintiff recovered $30,286.46 – constituting $18,286.46 for medical expenses and $12,000.00 for pain and suffering – the Plaintiff appealed.
The Illinois Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s exclusion of Plaintiff’s testimony regarding her lack of health insurance. The Court reasoned that the testimony was absolutely relevant pursuant to Illinois Rule of Evidence 401, as the testimony had a “tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable that it would be without the evidence.”
The Appellate Court then determined that it was not unduly prejudicial for the jury to hear Plaintiff’s testimony that she did not have health insurance. The court reached this conclusion largely because the Defendant’s attorneys incessantly reminded the jury that the Plaintiff had undergone no medical treatment in the three years prior to the trial in an attempt to reduce her pain and suffering recovery.
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