Hospital Insists it Was Malpractice; Patient Disagrees

At first glance it looks like a “Man Bites Dog” headline.  The hospital insists that the patient was injured by professional negligence; the patient vehemently disagrees.  The argument goes all the way to the state court of appeals.

The explanation is immediately clear to medical malpractice lawyers: the hospital wants the protection of the state medical malpractice act, while the plaintiff wants the more relaxed rules of general negligence law.

On Feb. 23, 2012, patient Manuel Nava fell and fractured his clavicle and patella when a hospital gurney tipped.  It’s unclear whether the incident occurred inside the hospital or at the hospital curbside when he was being transferred to an ambulance.

On Feb. 20, 2014, Manuel sued the hospital for personal injury, negligence, and premises liability.  The hospital moved for summary judgment, citing the one-year statute of limitations in California’s medical malpractice act.  Manuel opposed the motion, arguing that the suit was a premises liability case subject to the general two-year statute of limitations.  The trial court granted the motion.

On appeal by Manuel, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court ruling, concluding “that the alleged negligence in the use or maintenance of the gurney … was integrally related to his medical diagnosis or treatment.”  What’s more, the outcome is the same whether the incident occurred inside the hospital or at curbside because “such a transfer must have been made subject to a medical professional’s directive.”

The case is Nava v. Saddlebrook Memorial Med. Center, No. G052218 (Calif. Ct. of App, 4th Dist., Div. 3, Oct. 18, 2016).

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