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New expansion of MICRA

I’ve written before about the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). A law introduced in the 1970s which, among other things, capped the general damages (pain and suffering) for medical malpractice cases at $250,000.00. It also shortened the amount of time you have to bring against a medical provider from the standard 2 years (for most other types of personal injury) down to just 1 year. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard potential clients tell me “I knew something was wrong with the surgery but the doctor told me to wait one year”…

MICRA’s reach has been expanded once again in the California Supreme Court’s ruling in Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital.

Ms. Flores was a hospital patient who was injured when one of the rails on her hospital bed collapsed. The rail had been raised according to doctor’s orders following a medical assessment of her condition. Ms. Flores brought an action against the hospital, for her injuries from the fall, claiming that the hospital negligently failed to inspect and maintain their equipment (beds).

Ms. Flores argued that the failure to inspect the hospital bed was not, in of itself, “medical malpractice” and thus she should have two years to bring her lawsuit against the hospital. The hospital argued that the case was one involving “medical malpractice” and argued that the lawsuit was too late, having been filed more than one year after the failure of the hospital bedrail.

The trial court agreed with the hospital, dismissing the case. The appellate court agreed with the plaintiff, reversing the dismissal. The Supreme Court agreed with the hospital – determining that this was a case involving “medical malpractice” and thus was governed by MICRA and the 1 year statute of limitations.

The Court determined that, “because plaintiff’s injury resulted from alleged negligence in the use and maintenance of equipment needed to implement the doctor’s order concerning her medical treatment, we conclude that plaintiff’s claim sounds in professional, rather than ordinary, negligence.”

The Court’s holding was, a follows:

A hospital’s negligent failure to maintain equipment that is necessary or otherwise integrally related to the medical treatment and diagnosis of the patient implicates a duty that the hospital owes to a patient by virtue of being a health care provider. Thus, if the act or omission that led to the plaintiff’s injuries was negligence in the maintenance of equipment that, under the prevailing standard of care, was reasonably required to treat or accommodate a physical or mental condition of the patient, the plaintiff’s claim is one of professional negligence under section 340.5. But section 340.5 does not extend to negligence in the maintenance of equipment and premises that are merely convenient for, or incidental to, the provision of medical care to a patient.
Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (2016) 2016 Cal. LEXIS 2561, at 23

Essentially, the Court explained and ruled that, because the hospital bed was used in treatment, it’s failure and the negligence regarding inspecting it, was “medical malpractice.” If the chairs in the waiting room had broken, that would not be “medical malpractice” because they aren’t used in treatment.

Because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Ms. Flores was denied the right to recover for the injuries sustained when the hospital bed malfunctioned, causing her to fall to the floor and be injured.

Do you think you have a medical malpractice case? DON’T WAIT! You have one year and, in some cases, even less time to file an action. There are a few exceptions to this general rule and we at Heiting & Irwin would be happy to discuss them with you. Call us today for a free medical malpractice consultation.

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