Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Aldana v. Stillwagon (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 3, 2016)

"Mike Stillwagon, a paramedic supervisor, was driving his employer’s pickup truck. He was en route to the location of an injured fall victim to supervise the responding emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and, if necessary, provide assistance. At an intersection in Oxnard, he collided with a vehicle being driven by Gerardo Aldana. A year and a half later, Aldana sued him for negligence."

That seems like a pretty ordinary lawsuit, no?  I wonder what the appeal is about.

"The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) limits the time to file suit against a health care provider for professional negligence to one year from the date the injury is discoverable. (Code Civ. Proc., § 340.5.) The trial court found that Aldana’s suit was subject to MICRA’s one-year statute of limitations rather than the two-year limitations period for general negligence (§ 335.1), and therefore was time-barred."

Seriously?!  It's an auto accident, for goodness sake.  I can barely fathom how MICRA could even possibly be relevant.  I mean, I can fathom it.  But barely.  It seems obvious to me that this is an auto accident case, with its usual statute of limitations, and not a professional negligence case.

"After briefing was complete and before we heard oral argument, our Supreme Court decided Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (2016) 63 Cal.4th 75 (Flores), which clarified the issue. Flores held that “the special statute of limitations for professional negligence actions against health care providers applies only to actions alleging injury suffered as a result of negligence in rendering the professional services that hospitals and others provide by virtue of being health care professionals: that is, the provision of medical care to patients.” (Id. at p. 88.)"

Okay.  I agree that's helpful.  But I wouldn't have needed the "clarification".  The right answer seems clear to me even without it.

"Aldana contends that the trial court erred in applying MICRA because he had no connection to the professional services being rendered and because Stillwagon was not rendering professional services at the time of the accident. We agree with the latter contention. While Stillwagon’s status as a paramedic may demonstrate that he was a medical professional, the automobile collision remains a “garden-variety” accident not resulting from the violation of a professional obligation but from a failure to exercise reasonable care in the operation of a motor vehicle. (Flores, supra, 63 Cal.4th at p. 87, fn. 4; see Lee v. Hanley (2015) 61 Cal.4th 1225, 1237.) The obligation was one that he owed to the general public by virtue of being a driver and not one that he owed to a patient by virtue of being a paramedic. Therefore, we reverse."

Exactly right.