(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this medical malpractice/birth injury case and its proceedings.)
In Marina Emergency Medical Group v. Superior Court (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 435, the defendant emergency room doctor was negligent in treating plaintiff’s lacerated thumb and that injury was later aggravated by the negligence of plaintiff’s personal physician. (Id. at p. 437.) At the trial against the ER doctor only, plaintiff successfully moved to exclude all evidence of the subsequent medical treatment, preventing the jury from allocating fault among the various individuals responsible for plaintiff’s injury. (Id. at pp. 437-438.)
On appeal, plaintiff argued the ER doctor was an “original tortfeasor who was vicariously” liable to plaintiff for the subsequent tortfeasor’s negligence. Therefore, according to plaintiff, the successive tortfeasor liability law eliminated the requirement of apportionment of fault under Proposition 51 in the same manner as respondeat superior eliminated apportionment in employer/employee cases. (Id. at p. 440.) The Second District Court of Appeal disagreed and held that the ER doctor was allowed to reduce his liability to plaintiff through apportionment of fault among all responsible parties.
The Marina Court distinguished the line of cases involving pure respondeat superior (i.e., employer/employee) or imputed liability based on statute. The Marina Court correctly recognized that the “subsequent medical treatment” liability theory is not vicarious liability as that term is normally understood. The original tortfeasor’s liability for subsequent negligence is not derivative of the subsequent tortfeasor’s conduct. (Id. at p. 440.) Rather, the law holds the original wrongdoer liability because it regards the subsequent medical treatment to be proximately caused by the original injury. (Ibid.)
Therefore, the original tortfeasor is allowed to reduce his liability to the extent of the subsequent tortfeasor’s fault and is entitled to have [plaintiff’s] damages apportioned among the universe of tortfeasors. (Id. at p. 441.) This apportionment is compelled regardless of whether the universe of tortfeasors remain parties to the litigation at the time of trial or not. (Roslan v. Permea, Inc. (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 110, 113 [the universe of tortfeasors includes nonjoined defendants as well as settling defendants].)
Regardless of any of plaintiff’s’ incorrect theories of liability, defendant Universal Hospital is entitled to have the jury apportion fault in this case among the universe of tortfeasors involved in this case, including plaintiff and including non-parties.
On the basis of the foregoing, defendant Universal Hospital Medical Center requests this Court to reject plaintiff’s’ improper theories of liability.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.