Plaintiffs suing public entities for medical negligence must meet both Government Claims Act and MICRA deadlines.
A nurse for Santa Clara County’s Department of Corrections popped a blister on Emilio Carrillo’s foot over his objection while he was forcibly detained. Within three days, the wound became infected. Carrillo developed gangrene, became febrile, and went into septic shock. Doctors amputated his foot later that month. Four months later, Carrillo was advised to pursue legal action while visiting the Mexican Consulate for immigration advice. Carrillo waited two months, then filed a claim with the County for negligence, which was rejected the next month. One day shy of six months from the rejection—and 13 months after his foot was amputated—Carrillo sued the County. The County demurred, citing MICRA’s one-year statute of limitations. The trial court sustained the County’s demurrer and entered a judgment of dismissal. Carrillo appealed.
The Court of Appeal affirmed. Under the Government Claims Act, suits against public entities must be filed within six months after the government rejects the claim. (Gov. Code, § 945.6, subd. (a)(1).) In addition, under MICRA, a plaintiff alleging medical negligence must sue within three years after the injury or one year after the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury, whichever is earlier. (Code Civ. Proc., § 340.5.) Relying on Roberts v. County of Los Angeles (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 474, 481, Carrillo argued there is always a three-year limitations period when both the Claims Act and MICRA apply. The court disagreed, construing a statement in Roberts about the MICRA three-year period being an “outer limit” for lawsuits against public healthcare providers as meaning that plaintiffs must comply with both the Claims Act and MICRA. Here, MICRA’s one-year statute of limitations barred Carrillo’s claim because he knew of the nurse’s unauthorized blister treatment and his consequent foot amputation, yet he failed to plead specific facts showing that he could not have discovered a connection between those events with reasonable diligence.
The bulletin describing this appellate decision was originally prepared for the California Society for Healthcare Attorneys (CSHA) by H. Thomas Watson and Peder K. Batalden, who are partners at the appellate firm Horvitz & Levy LLP, and is republished with permission. For more information regarding this bulletin, please contact H. Thomas Watson, Horvitz & Levy LLP, at 818-995-0800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.