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Timing is Critical in Medical Setting Injuries

Several rulings have come down from higher courts this year in California relating to the proper time limit that applies to injury cases occurring in medical settings.  Excluding particularized time periods relating to public entities, there is usually either a 1-year medical malpractice or 2-year general negligence limitations period that applies to such injuries.

In the Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital case, the patient was injured when her bedrail, ordered raised by the doctor, failed and she fell to floor.  The Supreme Court held in Flores that:

“…if the act or omission that let to plaintiff’s injuries was negligence in the maintenance of equipment that….was reasonably required to treat or accommodate a physical or medical 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 the negligence in the maintenance of equipment and premises that are merely convenient for, or incidental to, the provision of medical care to a patient….Although a defect in such equipment may injure patients as well as visitors or staff, a hospital’s general duty to keep such items in good repair generally overlaps with the ‘obligations that all person subject to California’s laws have’ [citation], and thus will not give rise to claim for professional negligence.”  Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (2016) 63 Cal. 4th 75, 88-89.

More recently, in the Nava v. Saddleback Memorial Medical Center case, a hospital patient was injured when the gurney to which he was being transferred tipped over and he fell to the ground. The Court of Appeal relied on the Flores rationale to determine that the fall from the gurney came within the one-year medical malpractice statute of limitations. See 2016 DJDAR 10371, 10373.

While the general rule of thumb may be to err on the side of caution and use the shorter limitation period, even the most cautious of practitioners and plaintiffs can use this further guidance by the higher courts to proceed with actions they may have previously dismissed as time-barred.

Heiting & Irwin’s handling of medical malpractice and general negligence matters over the past 35 years enables us to quickly and efficiently evaluate potential negligence claims.  We would be happy to assist you, your family, or a friend with any potential injury claims.

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