A hospital patient fell out of bed when her bed rail collapsed. She injured her knee and elbow. Just under two years later, the woman sued the hospital for general negligence and premises liability. The hospital filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the claim sounded in professional malpractice and was thus barred by the one-year statute of limitations in the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA). The hospital reasoned that the alleged negligence was an integral part of the professional services being rendered to the plaintiff. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County dismissed the claim.
The California Court of Appeal for the Second District reversed the order of dismissal with directions to reinstate the action. The court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim sounded in ordinary negligence and was thus timely filed under the two-year statute of limitations applicable to personal injury actions. The court reasoned that the claim was based on an equipment failure. The alleged negligence was the hospital's failure to use reasonable care in maintaining its premises and failing to make a reasonable inspection of the equipment and premises, which were open to the plaintiff and the public, and failing to take reasonable precautions to discover and make safe a dangerous condition on the premises.
MICRA defines professional negligence as a negligent act or omission to act by a health care provider in the rendering of professional services. The test 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 negligently maintained bed rail that collapses does not amount to professional negligence within the meaning of the statute.
See: Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital, 2013 WL 693470 (Cal.App. 2 Dist., February 27, 2013) (not designated for publication).