MICRA applies when ambulance passengers are injured during a collision.
Ubaldo and Leobardo Lopez were allegedly injured when the American Medical Response West (AMR) ambulance in which Leobardo was being transported collided with another vehicle. Eleven months later, the Lopezes’ counsel sent a settlement demand letter to the AMR’s claims administrator. Then, a few days before the accident anniversary, the Lopezes’ counsel sent a letter directly to AMR stating it constituted notice of the Lopezes’ intent to file a lawsuit under Code of Civil Procedure section 364. Eleven weeks later (about 14 months after the accident), the Lopezes’ filed a complaint alleging motor vehicle and medical negligence causes of action. AMR moved for summary judgment based on the one-year MICRA statute of limitations (Code Civ. Proc., § 340.5). The trial court found that MICRA applied based on declarations from the emergency medical technicians establishing their EMT certification at the time of the accident. The court treated the initial settlement demand letter as a notice of intent to sue under section 364, so the second letter did not toll the limitations period. The court concluded the lawsuit was untimely and granted summary judgment. The Lopezes appealed.
The Court of Appeal affirmed. First, the court held that the EMTs’ declarations established their certification at the time of the accident, so there was no reason for them to submit actual certificates. The court then held that, under Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (2016) 63 Cal.4th 75 and Canister v. Emergency Ambulance Service, Inc. (2008) 160 Cal.App.4th 388,transporting a patient by ambulance counts as providing “professional services” under section 340.5. Here, Lopezes’ injuries resulted from AMR’s alleged negligence in the “ ‘use or maintenance of equipment . . . integrally related to [plaintiff Leobardo’s] medical diagnosis and treatment.’ ” The court explained that MICRA applies to all injuries resulting from professional medical negligence regardless whether an injured party was receiving medical treatment, so it was immaterial that Ubaldo was not a patient. Finally, the court rejected the Lopezes’ argument that their second letter tolled the statute of limitations. The Lopezes’ initial settlement demand letter adequately explained the legal basis of their claim against AMR, including details of their alleged injuries. That first letter therefore constituted a section 364 notice of intent to sue, meaning the Lopezes were not permitted to toll the limitations period by sending a second letter.
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.