May 5, 2016

MICRA statute of limitations bars patient’s action

In Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital, the Supreme Court holds the one-year statute of limitations in the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) applies to the lawsuit brought by a patient injured when a rail on her hospital bed collapsed.  By its terms, the limitations period applies to those actions that are “for injury or death against a health care provider based upon such person’s alleged professional negligence.”  The lawsuit would have been timely only if it had been governed by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to personal injury actions in general.

Resolving long-standing uncertainty about the meaning of “based upon . . . goldilocks1professional negligence,” the unanimous opinion by Justice Leondra Kruger uses a Goldilocks approach, settling on an interpretation of the statutory language that is in between those the parties advocated.  The patient’s proposed rule “is too narrow” and the defendant hospital’s proposed rule “is too broad,” the court finds.  Instead, the court concludes, “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, . . . plaintiff’s claim sounds in professional, rather than ordinary, negligence.”

The court reverses the Second District, Division Three, Court of Appeal.

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