David BEHLMANN, Plaintiff–Appellant v. CENTURY SURETY COMPANY, Defendant–Appellee State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Defendant.
After a car accident, David Behlmann sued his insurer, Century Surety Co., for underinsured motorist benefits. The jury found for Century. Behlmann requested a new trial, challenging the evidence on the value of his medical treatment and the strike of the only African–American venireperson. The district court1 denied a new trial. Behlmann appeals. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, this court affirms.
Behlmann's car was hit by a car driven negligently by Craig Sheffer. Behlmann was billed $89,884.79 for medical treatment. To pay the bills, he needed $38,298.77 (due to insurance discounts/payments). Behlmann settled with Sheffer for $50,000, the limit of Sheffer's policy. Claiming injuries over $50,000, Behlmann sued Century for underinsured motorist benefits.
At trial, Century argued that Behlmann's medical treatment cost less than $50,000 and resulted from pre-existing conditions. Century introduced a stipulation of the amount billed to Behlmann ($89,884.79) and the amount needed to pay the bills ($38,298.77). The court admitted the stipulation under § 490.715.5 RSMo.
During voir dire, over Behlmann's objection, Century used a peremptory strike on Juror 4—the only African American of the 17 venirepersons.
The jury found for Century, denying Behlmann benefits. Behlmann requested a new trial based on the strike and the introduction of the amount needed to pay his bills. The district court denied a new trial.
Behlmann seeks a new trial, claiming that the amount needed to pay his medical bills was improperly admitted under section 490.715. This court reviews the denial of a new trial for a “clear abuse of discretion,” reversing only “to prevent a miscarriage of justice.” Burris v. Gulf Underwriters Ins. Co., 787 F.3d 875, 878 (8th Cir.2015), considering Fed.R.Civ.P. 59. This court reviews de novo issues of statutory interpretation. Minn. Supply Co. v. Raymond Corp., 472 F.3d 524, 537 (8th Cir.2006).
Section 490.715 generally bars the introduction of collateral-source evidence. § 490.715.1 (“No evidence of collateral sources shall be admissible other than such evidence provided for in this section.”). See generally Deck v. Teasley, 322 S.W.3d 536, 538 (Mo. banc 2010) (noting section 490.715 codifies common law collateral-source rule). Subsection 5 is an exception: “Parties may introduce evidence of the value of the medical treatment rendered to a party that was reasonable, necessary, and a proximate result of the negligence of any party.” § 490.715.5(1). See also § 490.715.5(2) (explaining that the value of medical treatment may be “the dollar amount necessary to satisfy the financial obligation to the health care provider”).
Behlmann argues subsection 5 applies only in tort actions and only when the tortfeasor is a plaintiff or defendant in the suit. See § 490.715.5(1) (permitting evidence of the value of medical treatment resulting from the “negligence of any party ” (emphases added)). He claims that subsection 5 does not apply here, a contract action that does not include the tortfeasor. Thus, he says, the amount needed to pay his bills is inadmissible collateral-source evidence. The district court found that subsection 5 applies to “an insurer who stands in the shoes of a party,” noting underinsured motorist coverage claims are “inherently derivative of the negligence of the non-party tortfeasor.”
Interpreting state statutes, this court applies that state's rules of statutory construction. See Roubideaux v. N.D. Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., 570 F.3d 966, 972 (8th Cir.2009). In Missouri, the “primary rule of statutory interpretation is to give effect to the General Assembly's intent as reflected in the plain language of the statute at issue. This Court looks to canons of statutory interpretation only when the meaning of a statute is ambiguous or would lead to an illogical result that defeats the purpose of the legislation. This Court interprets statutes in a way that is not hyper-technical, but instead, is reasonable and logical and gives meaning to the statute.” Ben Hur Steel Worx, LLC v. Dir. of Revenue, 452 S.W.3d 624, 626 (Mo. banc 2015) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
Nothing in the statute limits it to tort actions. Section 490.715 applies to “all causes of action,” according to another section of the law enacting subsection 5. H.B. 393, § 2, 2005 Mo. Laws 655. See also H.B. 700, § 45, 1987 Mo. Laws 810, 812 (stating section 490.715, as originally passed, applies to “all causes of action”), codified at § 537.069 RSMo. While subsection 5 does refer to “negligence,” negligence may be an issue in non-tort actions. See Amato v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 213 S.W.3d 202, 208 (Mo.App.2007) (noting negligence at issue in underinsured motorist case). Behlmann notes that the bill enacting subsection 5 is described as “tort reform” by legislative summaries. The bill itself, however, is not so limited. It has other provisions not limited to torts. See, e.g., H.B. 393, § 355.176 (service of process for a corporation), 2005 Mo. Laws 642–43; § 408.040 (prejudgment interest in “nontort” and tort actions), 2005 Mo. Laws 643–44. And it is titled “An Act to repeal sections ․ and to enact in lieu thereof twenty-three new sections relating to claims for damages and the payment thereof.” 2005 Mo. Laws 642 (emphasis added). See Mo. Const. art. III, § 23 (“No bill shall contain more than one subject which shall be clearly expressed in its title․”); Missouri State Med. Ass'n v. Missouri Dep't of Health, 39 S.W.3d 837, 840–41 (Mo. banc 2001) (discussing constitutional requirements for bill title).
In tort and non-tort actions, subsection 5 permits the introduction of evidence on the value of medical treatment only when that treatment resulted from the negligence of “any party.” Behlmann reads “party” to mean the plaintiff or defendant in the lawsuit. True, this is one definition of “party.” See Black's Law Dictionary 1297 (10th ed.2014) (providing as one definition of “party”: “One by or against whom a lawsuit is brought; anyone who both is directly interested in a lawsuit and has a right to control the proceedings, make a defense, or appeal from an adverse judgment; litigant