MICRA: Premises Liability

By on March 25, 2014 - Comments off

Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (2013) 213 Cal.App.4th 1386, 153 Cal.Rptr.3d 413

A hospital patient who suffered injuries to her left knee and elbow when her bed rail collapsed, causing her to fall to the floor, filed suit against the hospital for general negligence and premises liability. The plaintiff contended that the action was not based upon professional negligence, in that no negligence was committed in assessing the condition of Plaintiff and in failing to raise the bed’s siderails. The plaintiff also alleged that it was only after the rendition of all professional services and after the siderails had been negligently latched, that the rail collapsed.

The hospital demurred to the complaint, arguing that the action was barred by C.C.P. §  340.5, the one year statute of limitations for professional negligence actions against health care providers. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, reasoning that ensuring bedrails are properly raised, lowered or latched is a duty that arises from professional services. However, the court of appeal reversed, holding that the facts as alleged sounded in ordinary negligence which did not occur in the rendering of professional services, and that the case was therefore subject to the two year statute of limitations:

[T]he instant fact situation is easily distinguished from the five California cases discussed above, arising out of patient falls from beds or gurneys. All those cases involve injury to a patient resulting from the failure to properly secure or supervise the patient while on a hospital bed or gurney.
. . .
Here, in contrast, as alleged in the complaint, the patient was injured “when the bed rail collapsed causing plaintiff to fall to the ground injuring her left knee and elbow.” (Italics added.)  Thus, Flores does not allege the Hospital was negligent in failing to elevate the bed rails or in otherwise failing to supervise or secure her. Rather, Flores alleges she was injured by an equipment failure, i.e., a collapsed bed rail. The alleged negligence is the Hospital’s failure “to use reasonable care in maintaining [its] premises and fail[ing] to make a reasonable inspection of the equipment and premises, which were open to Plaintiff and the public, and fail[ing] to take reasonable precautions to discover and make safe a dangerous condition on the premises.” As set forth ante, the discrete issue presented is whether these allegations by Flores, involving a collapsed bed rail, sound in ordinary negligence or professional negligence.
. . .
We conclude the instant fact situation, consisting of a collapsed bed rail, does not constitute professional negligence. The test under section 340.5 is whether “ ‘the negligent act occurred in the rendering of services for which the health care provider is licensed.’
. . .
Injury to a patient from a fallen chandelier, or from a negligently maintained bed rail which collapses, does not amount to professional negligence within the meaning of section 340.5. To reiterate, “not every tortious injury inflicted upon one’s client or patient or fiducial beneficiary amounts to [professional] malpractice.”

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