Business Law

Mitchell v. Los Robles Regional Medical Center (Nov. 2, 2021, B309123) __ Cal.App.5th __ [2021 WL 5071559]

MICRA limitations period bars personal injury action claiming patient fell because ER nurses negligently failed to accompany her to the restroom.

Stacey Mitchell was taken to the Los Robles Regional Medical Center ER after taking 60 Naproxen tablets, vomiting twice, and experiencing ongoing nausea and abdominal pain. Her treating physician noted that Mitchell had a resting tremor, but displayed no motor nor sensory deficits. He diagnosed her with an acute kidney injury. A nurse placed an IV catheter in Mitchell’s arm. About two hours later, Mitchell walked to the toilet with help from her husband. While walking back from the restroom unassisted, Mitchell fell, injuring her nose, forehead, and knee. She was admitted to Los Robles, treated, and released a few days later. 

More than one year later, Mitchell sued Los Robles for negligence and premises liability, alleging that she fell because the nursing staff did not accompany her to and from the restroom. Los Robles moved for summary judgment based on the MICRA statute of limitations, Civil Code section 340.5, among other grounds. The trial court granted summary judgment and Mitchell appealed.

The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that Mitchell’s filed an untimely medical malpractice lawsuit. The court explained that MICRA applied because the nurses’ judgment that Mitchell could walk herself to and from the bathroom without assistance was made in the course of providing medical care. In other words, the nurses’ duty to protect Mitchell from falling while walking in the ER was owed to a patient, not to a member of the general public. Because Mitchell filed her lawsuit more than one year after her injury, it was time-barred under section 340.5.

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