Malpractice filing deadlines don’t apply to patients who slip on a wet floor.
That was the message from the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, CA, which recently reinstated a lawsuit by a woman who was injured in West Anaheim Medical Center while walking back to her bed from the bathroom.
California imposes a one-year deadline between the time a patient learns he or she has been injured and the last day for filing a malpractice lawsuit. Patient Asma Pouzbaris had waited two years, so the hospital argued that her case should be thrown out.
A lower court agreed, but the appeals court reinstated the case and said the tight timetable for malpractice filings doesn’t necessarily apply to everything that can go wrong in a medical facility.
Pouzbaris had been admitted to the West Anaheim Medical Center with possible heart problems in June 2010 and slipped on a floor that apparently had been mopped recently. There were no warning cones or signs, and a maintenance employee apologized for the oversight, according to the lawsuit.
A judge in Orange County dismissed the case, and said the one-year deadline set by state law in 1975 applies to any claims of negligence in services a health facility is providing to a patient. Appeals court Presiding Justice William F. Rylaarsdam, JD, and his two fellow judges disagreed and determined that the action was governed by California’s two-year timebar that pertains to ordinary negligence suits, rather than the shortened period prescribed by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA).
Rylaarsdam wrote in the ruling that the court rejects the argument that “a negligently maintained, unsafe condition of a hospital’s premises which causes injury to a patient qualifies as professional negligence. Rather, injury to a patient from a falling chandelier, or a recently mopped floor, does not fall within the meaning of professional negligence.”
The ruling is available online at http://tinyurl.com/pgvpo4h.