Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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The Board of Directors (the Board) of Bear Valley Community Hospital (Bear Valley) refused to promote Dr. Robert O. Powell from provisional to active staff membership and reappointment to Bear Valley's medical staff. Dr. Powell appealed the superior court judgment denying his petition for writ of mandate to void the Board's decision and for reinstatement of his medical staff privileges. Dr. Powell practiced medicine in both Texas and California as a general surgeon. In 2000, the medical executive committee of Brownwood Regional Medical Center (Brownwood), in Texas, found that Dr. Powell failed to advise a young boy's parents that he severed the boy's vas deferens during a hernia procedure or of the ensuing implications. Further, the committee found that Dr. Powell falsely represented to Brownwood's medical staff, on at least two occasions, that he fully disclosed the circumstances to the parents, behavior which the committee considered to be dishonest, obstructive, and which prevented appropriate follow-up care. Based on the committee's findings, Brownwood terminated Dr. Powell's staff membership and clinical privileges. In subsequent years, Dr. Powell obtained staff privileges at other medical facilities. In October 2011, Dr. Powell applied for appointment to the medical staff at Bear Valley. On his initial application form, Dr. Powell was given an opportunity to disclose whether his clinical privileges had ever been revoked by any medical facility. In administrative hearings generated by the Bear Valley Board’s decision, there was a revelation that Dr. Powell had not been completely forthcoming about the Brownwood termination, and alleged the doctor mislead the judicial review committee (“JRC”) about the circumstances leading to that termination. Under Bear Valley's bylaws, Dr. Powell had the right to an administrative appeal of the JRC's decision; he chose, however, to bypass an administrative appeal and directly petition the superior court for a writ of mandamus. In superior court, Dr. Powell filed a petition for writ of mandate under Code of Civil Procedure sections 1094.5 and 1094.6, seeking to void the JRC's/Board's decision and to have his medical privileges reinstated. The trial court denied the petition, and this appeal followed. On appeal of the superior court’s denial, Dr. Powell argued he was entitled to a hearing before the lapse of his provisional staff privileges: that the Board surreptitiously terminated his staff privileges, presumably for a medical disciplinary cause, by allowing his privileges to lapse and failing to act. The Court of Appeal determined the Bear Valley Board had little to no insight into the true circumstances of Dr. Powell’s termination at Brownwood or the extent of his misrepresentations, thus the Board properly exercised independent judgment based on the information presented. In summary, the Court of Appeal concluded Bear Valley provided Dr. Powell a fair procedure in denying his request for active staff privileges and reappointment to the medical staff. View "Powell v. Bear Valley Community Hospital" on Justia Law

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In November 2013, Vincent Selvidge died of a heart attack. His surviving wife and children (plaintiffs) sought to sue defendant, a physician who treated Selvidge, for medical malpractice. Plaintiffs filed their suit on January 28, 2015; 85 days after the one-year statute of limitations to bring a medical malpractice claim had expired. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that the suit was untimely. Plaintiffs claimed they were entitled to tolling of the limitation period for 90 days pursuant to section 364 because they provided notice to defendant on October 24, 2014, of their intention to sue him. By their reasoning, the statute of limitations did not expire until February 2, 2015, and their suit was timely. To prove they provided notice to defendant, plaintiffs submitted a declaration from the legal assistant to plaintiffs’ attorney, who mailed the notice of intent to a Southern California address listed for defendant on the medical board’s Web site. She also called the facility in Rancho Cordova where defendant had treated Selvidge and learned defendant was no longer an employee. Although the legal assistant declared that the notice was not returned as undelivered, she did not send the letter by certified mail or prepare a proof of service. Defendant claimed to have never received the notice of intent. The address he provided to the medical board, and to which the letter was mailed, was not defendant’s residence but an address he used for billing purposes. The address was owned by a business service company that received mail on behalf of defendant and his medical corporation, to which he was the sole employee. In October of 2014, defendant estimated he checked his mailbox at the address he provided to the medical board once or twice a month. The trial court granted defendant’s summary judgment motion, finding that because defendant did not have actual notice of plaintiffs’ intention to file an action against him, plaintiffs were required to comply with the mailing provisions found in Code Civ. Proc. section 1013(a). The issue this appeal presented for the Court of Appeal's review was whether mailing a notice of intent to file an action to a physician’s address of record with the Medical Board of California provided adequate notification of a potential medical malpractice suit under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. The Court held that it did, and accordingly reversed the trial court’s determination to the contrary. View "Selvidge v. Tang" on Justia Law

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In November 2013, Vincent Selvidge died of a heart attack. His surviving wife and children (plaintiffs) sought to sue defendant, a physician who treated Selvidge, for medical malpractice. Plaintiffs filed their suit on January 28, 2015; 85 days after the one-year statute of limitations to bring a medical malpractice claim had expired. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that the suit was untimely. Plaintiffs claimed they were entitled to tolling of the limitation period for 90 days pursuant to section 364 because they provided notice to defendant on October 24, 2014, of their intention to sue him. By their reasoning, the statute of limitations did not expire until February 2, 2015, and their suit was timely. To prove they provided notice to defendant, plaintiffs submitted a declaration from the legal assistant to plaintiffs’ attorney, who mailed the notice of intent to a Southern California address listed for defendant on the medical board’s Web site. She also called the facility in Rancho Cordova where defendant had treated Selvidge and learned defendant was no longer an employee. Although the legal assistant declared that the notice was not returned as undelivered, she did not send the letter by certified mail or prepare a proof of service. Defendant claimed to have never received the notice of intent. The address he provided to the medical board, and to which the letter was mailed, was not defendant’s residence but an address he used for billing purposes. The address was owned by a business service company that received mail on behalf of defendant and his medical corporation, to which he was the sole employee. In October of 2014, defendant estimated he checked his mailbox at the address he provided to the medical board once or twice a month. The trial court granted defendant’s summary judgment motion, finding that because defendant did not have actual notice of plaintiffs’ intention to file an action against him, plaintiffs were required to comply with the mailing provisions found in Code Civ. Proc. section 1013(a). The issue this appeal presented for the Court of Appeal's review was whether mailing a notice of intent to file an action to a physician’s address of record with the Medical Board of California provided adequate notification of a potential medical malpractice suit under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. The Court held that it did, and accordingly reversed the trial court’s determination to the contrary. View "Selvidge v. Tang" on Justia Law

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The Department moved to determine the amount of a Medi-Cal lien on the settlement of plaintiff's medical malpractice action. The Court of Appeal reduced the trial court's determination of the amount of the lien by 25 percent for statutory attorney fees. The court held that plaintiff's claim that the trial court erred in not valuing his noneconomic damages at $2.5 million was unsupportable. The court reasoned that crediting plaintiff with more in noneconomic damages than he could possibly have recovered was not a rational approach required by the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services v. Ahlborn, 547 U.S. 268. The court rejected the remaining claims and affirmed in all other respects. View "Martinez v. Department of Health Care Services" on Justia Law

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Dr. Erdle was arrested for possession of cocaine. He successfully completed drug treatment under a deferred entry of judgment program. Before completion of his drug program and dismissal of his criminal matter, the Medical Board filed an accusation. Erdle argued that he could not be disciplined because the action was based entirely on information obtained from his arrest record. Penal Code 1000.4 provides that “[a] record pertaining to an arrest resulting in successful completion of a pretrial diversion program shall not ... be used in any way that could result in the denial of any employment, benefit, license, or certificate.” Business and Professions Code section 492, however, states: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, successful completion of any diversion program under the Penal Code . . . shall not prohibit" disciplinary action by specific agencies, "notwithstanding that evidence of that misconduct may be" in an arrest record. The ALJ concluded that section 492 permits discipline but that arrest records should not be permitted at the hearing; that testimony by the arresting officer was allowable; and that cause for discipline existed. The court of appeal held that section 492 creates a blanket exemption from the restrictions contained in section 1000.4 for licensing decisions made by the specified healing arts agencies. View "Medical Board of California v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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While hospitalized after giving birth, Kumari fell and broke her shoulder. Four months later, Kumari sent ValleyCare Health System a detailed letter describing her injury and the basis for her “medical negligence” claim. Kumari requested $240,000 and stated she would “move to the court” if she did not receive a check within 20 days. ValleyCare denied Kumari’s claim. More than a year after her injury, Kumari and her husband sued, alleging medical negligence and loss of consortium. The court granted ValleyCare summary judgment, concluding Kumari’s letter constituted a notice of intent to sue pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 364, which precludes a plaintiff from filing a professional negligence action against a health care provider unless the plaintiff has given that provider 90 days notice of the intention to commence the action. No particular form of notice is required; subdivision (d) tolls the statute of limitations for 90 days if the notice is served within the last 90 days of the one-year limitations period. The court of appeal affirmed that the complaint was time-barred, rejecting plaintiffs’ claim that an author’s subjective motivation for writing a letter to a health care provider is relevant when determining whether that letter is a notice of intent to sue under section 364. View "Kumari v. Hospital Committee for Livermore-Pleasanton Areas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Nancy Brenner, individually and in her representative capacity as representative of the estate of Dale Brenner, and Zach Brenner, individually, appealed judgments entered in favor of defendants Universal Health Services of Rancho Springs, Inc., doing business as Southwest Healthcare System - Inland Valley Medical Center (UHS) and Dr. Young H. Lee, M.D. (Dr. Lee or Lee). Dale Brenner, Nancy's husband and Zach's father, was a patient at the Inland Valley Medical Center for approximately 23 days after he suffered a stroke a few hours after arriving at the emergency department of the hospital. He was eventually transferred to another medical facility, where he later died. Approximately a year after Dale Brenner's death, the plaintiffs sued UHS, Lee, and additional defendants, asserting causes of action for wrongful death based on medical negligence; retaliation; and elder abuse. Lee and UHS moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. On appeal, the plaintiffs contended the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment in favor of UHS and Lee. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgments. View "Brenner v. Universal Health etc." on Justia Law

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The First Appellate District reversed an award of $9,577,000 as the present cash value of plaintiff’s future medical and rehabilitation care expenses in an action for medical malpractice against Contra County Costa, arising out of injuries plaintiff sustained at birth. The trial court erred in excluding evidence that health insurance benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA),124 Stat. 119, would be available to mitigate plaintiff’s future medical costs. Plaintiff suffered irreversible brain damage in utero while his mother’s pregnancy was being managed by a physician employed by the County. Plaintiff has a very low verbal IQ and will never be a functional reader. He has serious language communication difficulties, significant behavioral problems, and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Plaintiff’s theory at trial was that he sustained his injury because the doctor breached the applicable standard of care by failing to schedule his delivery prior to 37 weeks’ gestation. The County did not appeal with respect to liability. View "Cuevas v. Contra Costa County" on Justia Law