In a decision handed down on February 27, 2013, the California Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District) ruled that a lawsuit alleging negligence by a hospital was subject to the two-year statute of limitations for ordinary negligence rather than the one-year statute of limitations for professional negligence.
The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA) sets a one-year statute of limitations for a lawsuit against a health care provider based on the provider’s alleged professional negligence. MICRA defines “professional negligence” as a negligent act “by a health care provider in the rendering of professional services.” The MICRA statute of limitations contrasts with Section 335.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure which sets a two-year statute of limitations for lawsuits based on ordinary negligence.
Catherine Flores was a patient in Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital. Flores claimed she was injured when a bed rail collapsed and caused her to fall to the ground. Nearly two years after the fall, Flores sued the hospital for negligence. The hospital responded that Flores’s claim involved professional negligence rather than ordinary negligence and thus was timed-barred by the one-year statute of limitations in MICRA. The trial court held in favor of the hospital and dismissed Flores’s lawsuit. Flores appealed the trial court’s decision.
The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s dismissal. The Appellate court pointed out that Flores did not allege that the hospital was negligent in failing to elevate the bed rails or in otherwise failing to supervise or secure her. Instead, Flores alleged that she was injured by an equipment failure, i.e., a collapsed bed rail. The court ruled that Flores’s lawsuit was not subject to MICRA’s one-year statute of limitations, stating, “We conclude Flores’s complaint, which alleged she was injured ‘when the bed rail collapsed causing plaintiff to fall to the ground,’ sounds in ordinary negligence because the negligence did not occur in the rendering of professional services.”
The Court of Appeal’s opinion in Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital
is available at www.courts.ca.gov