SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court has hinted as to how it’s looking at one of the most closely watched cases on its docket.

The court on Tuesday asked for defense-friendly supplemental briefing in Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, 179 Cal.App.4th 686, in which the court is expected to answer whether a plaintiff can recover the full cost of medical care even if the insurer paid only a smaller, negotiated amount. With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake depending on how the court falls, lawyers around the state are tracking the case closely.