Tuesday, September 12, 2017
MICRA Inapplicable to Patient Who Tripped on Scale
Says Two-Year Statute of Limitation for Negligence Applies
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The two-year statute of limitation relating to negligence actions, and not the one-year statute under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, applies to a case in which a woman sued a medical clinic for her injuries incurred when tripping on a scale, the First District Court of Appeal held yesterday.
The opinion by Justice Timothy A. Reardon of Div. Four reverses a summary judgment in favor of Open Door Community Health Centers based on application of the one-year statute, and reinstates the action of Claudia A. Johnson. The plaintiff claims that after she was weighed on the scale and while she engaged in a consultation with a nurse practitioner, the piece of equipment was moved and placed where it was likely to be tripped over,
Reardon noted that in Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital, the California Supreme Court last year said that MICRA’s one-year time bar does not “apply to a visitor’s action for injuries resulting from a custodian’s negligence in leaving a broom on a hallway floor, or a doctor’s action against the hospital for failure to place a warning sign on a wet, recently mopped floor” and is not “an all-purpose rule covering essentially every form of ordinary negligence that happens to occur on hospital property.”
In that case, liability was found. Hospital staff failed to observe a doctor’s order that the guard rail on the bed be left up, and that failure led to the plaintiff’s injury.
That circumstance was contrasted by Justice Leondra R. Kruger with a chair at as hospital that collapsed when someone sat in it because “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.”
“Indeed, this case is closely analogous to the ‘collapsing chair’ example in Flores, where the failure to maintain a waiting-room chair threatens harm to all visitors, not just patients, and therefore constitutes ordinary, not professional services, negligence.”
“Unlike plaintiff Flores, who was injured during the provision of medical care, through the breach of a duty owed only to patients, Johnson was injured after her care was completed, allegedly as a result of a breach of duties owed generally to all visitors to the Open Door clinic. Although she tripped on medical equipment coincidentally used as part of her earlier medical treatment, she does not allege that Open Door’s failure to properly maintain the scale affected the quality of her medical treatment. She was weighed without incident. Had she alleged the improper placement of the scale caused her to fall off the scale and injure herself, MICRA might apply. Had she alleged that Open Door’s failure to properly calibrate the scale resulted in inaccurate information and inappropriate medical care, any resulting claim would almost certainly be subject to MICRA. However, she alleges that Open Door’s placement of the scale posed a tripping hazard, implicating Open Door’s duty to all users of its facility, including patients, employees, and other invitees, to maintain safe premises.”
“We must avoid a ruling which would make ordinary premises liability claims subject to the special, one-year statute of limitations by differentiating between the special duties that medical providers owe to patients, on one hand, and those they owe, as property owners. to all invitees, on the other….Johnson alleges that Open Door negligently left a hazardous object in her path. Under these circumstances, the nature of the object does not matter—the scale could have just as easily been a broom or a box of medical supplies—what is material is that the duty owed by Open Door was not owed exclusively to patients.”
The case is Johnson v. Open Door Community Health Centers, A143992.
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