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VERSUS ORDINARY NEGLIGENCE
California, is a
slip, trip, fall, or other premises liability injury case
at a doctor's office or hospital governed under MICRA as professional
negligence or as ordinary negligence?
this question can have an effect on whether or not expert witness
testimony is required, which experts will be utilized if any, the
of general damages (pain
and suffering) recoverable, and the statute of limitations
deadline period in which to file a lawsuit.
precise boundary between professional
negligence (medical malpractice) and premises
liability (ordinary negligence) continues to evolve.
"..negligence in maintaining hospital equipment or premises
qualifies as professional negligence depends on the nature of the
relationship between the equipment or premises in question and the
provision of medical care to the plaintiff. 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 [Code of Civil Procedure] 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. Arguably every part of a hospital's plant would satisfy
such a standard, since the medical care of patients is, after all, the
central purpose for which any hospital is built. (See Murillo,
supra, 99 Cal.App.3d at p. 57.)
Even those parts of a hospital dedicated primarily to patient care
typically contain numerous items of furniture and equipment — tables,
televisions, toilets, and so on — that are provided primarily for the
comfort and convenience of patients and visitors, but generally play no
part in the patient's medical diagnosis or treatment.
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 persons
subject to California's laws have" (Lee, supra, 61 Cal.4th at p.
1238), and thus will not give rise to a claim for professional
negligence. If, for example, a chair in a waiting room collapses,
injuring the person sitting in it, the hospital's duty with respect to
that chair is no different from that of any other home or business with
chairs in which visitors may sit. Section 340.5's special statute of limitations does not
apply to a suit arising out of such an injury."
v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (California Supreme
Court 2016) 63 Cal.4th 75, 88-89.
"Plaintiff in this case is 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. Plaintiff sued the hospital, claiming that it
negligently failed to inspect and maintain the equipment. The question
presented is whether her claim is governed by the special limitations
period in section 340.5 or instead by the usual two-year statute of
limitations for personal injury actions. 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
Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity
Hospital (2016) 63 Cal.4th 75, 76.
HYPOTHETICAL FACTUAL EXAMPLES
- If the fall
by a patient
caused by a waiting room chair
collapsing due to negligent maintenance occurred in the doctor's
office general waiting
then ordinary negligence
related laws would probably apply.
if a patient slipped and fell due to a wet floor in an examining room,
then MICRA (professional
admitted hospital patient injured
at the hospital would likely fall under MICRA (professional
they, for example, slipped on a wet
floor caused by a janitor.
non-patient visitor under
the same circumstances above would be
governed by ordinary
premises negligence principles and remedies.
information provided in this article is
informational, only. The subject
matter and applicable law is evolving
and/or constant state of change. This article is based on
California law. No legal advice is given and no
attorney/client or other relationship is established or intended.
information provided is from general sources, and I cannot
warrant that the information contained in this website is accurate,
appropriate for the usage of any reader. It is recommend that readers
of this information consult
with their own counsel prior to relying on any information on this
was created in 2012 and updated in March of 2013, and then
substantially revised in June 2016.
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