August 15, 2013

Summary of August 14, 2013 conference report for civil cases

The following is our summary of the Supreme Court’s actions on petitions for review in civil cases from the Court’s conference on Wednesday, August 14, 2013. The summary includes those civil cases in which (1) review has been granted, (2) review has been denied but one or more justices has voted for review, or (3) the Court has ordered depublished an opinion of the Court of Appeal.

Review Granted

Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group, S211793—Review Granted—August 14, 2013

This case presents the following two issues:

1. Whether a physician can be liable for elder abuse “neglect” where the patient was a competent, autonomous adult who voluntarily sought outpatient medical treatment from the physician on a periodic basis, or whether liability under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act depends upon that physician having “custodial obligations” for providing the basic needs and comforts of the elder patient.

2. Whether a physician can be liable for elder abuse “neglect” where the physician made a medical error in failing to recognize the need for specialized care, or whether the physician must have refused to provide for the elderly patient’s basic needs and comforts.

Petitioners provided medical care to plaintiffs’ mother, who suffered from vascular disease in her right leg. Though her condition worsened over a two-year period, petitioners never referred her to a vascular specialist. Ultimately, she developed gangrene, underwent amputations, and died from complications. Plaintiffs filed two separate lawsuits: the first for medical malpractice, which is still pending in superior court, and this one for elder abuse.

The trial court dismissed the elder abuse action. It found that plaintiffs failed to allege that petitioners denied their mother needed care in a reckless manner. Instead, relying on Delaney v. Baker (1999) 20 Cal.4th 23, it ruled that the suit amounted to nothing more than professional negligence. In a published opinion, Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 875, the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Eight, reversed. Distinguishing Delaney, the court relied instead on Mack v. Soung (2000) 80 Cal.App.4th 966. It found, among other things, that plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged reckless neglect. Presiding Justice Bigelow dissented, agreeing with the trial court that Delaney governed and that the case presented allegations of “classic professional negligence.”

Review Denied (with dissenting justices)




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