By: Kacey R. Riccomini
September 1, 2016
Recently, in Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (2016) 63 Cal.4th 75, the California Supreme Court clarified whether and when the general negligence statute of limitations or, alternatively, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act’s (“MICRA”) special statute of limitations, applies to health care providers. Generally, a two-year statute of limitations for general negligence applies to personal injury actions. (Code Civ. Proc. §335.1.) However, under MICRA, claims for professional negligence against health care providers must be brought within the earlier of (1) “three years after the date of injury,” or (2) “one year after the plaintiff discovers, or…should have discovered, the injury.” (Code Civ. Proc. §340.5.)
In Flores, the plaintiff was injured when one of the rails on her hospital bed collapsed. The rail had been raised per the doctor’s orders following a medical assessment of her condition. Almost two years later, Flores sued the hospital, claiming that it negligently failed to inspect and maintain the equipment. The hospital, Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (“PIH”), sought to dismiss the claim by way of a demurrer, arguing that the claim was barred by §340.5’s one-year statute of limitations since Flores knew about her injury when she fell out of her hospital bed over a year before filing suit. Flores, on the other hand, argued that PIH’s conduct was ordinary negligence, subject to the two-year statute of limitations under §335.1. The trial court agreed with PIH, and sustained the demurrer without leave to amend.