(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this elder abuse/medical malpractice case and its proceedings.)
CAUSATION MUST BE PROVEN TO A REASONABLE MEDICAL PROBABILITY
One of the essential elements of plaintiff’s claim is causation. Assuming She is able to meet his burden of proving there was a breach of the standard of care, or elder abuse, she must then show any such breach was a cause of his injuries. As the court said in Budd v. Nixen (1971) 6 Cal.3d 195,200:
If the allegedly negligent conduct does not cause damage, it generates no cause of action in tort. The mere breach of a professional duty, causing only nominal damages, speculative harm, or the threat of future harm–not yet realized–does not suffice to create a cause of action for negligence.
In the context of a personal injury action, causation must be proven within a reasonable medical probability. The reason for this was explained by the court in Brown v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp. (1985) 163 C.A.3d 396, 402-403:
The law is well settled that in a personal injury action causation must be proven within a reasonable medical probability based upon competent expert testimony. Mere possibility alone is insufficient to establish a prima facie case. [citations omitted] That there is a distinction between a reasonable medical “probability” and a medical “possibility” needs little discussion. There can be many possible “causes,” indeed, an infinite number of circumstances which can produce an injury or disease. A possible cause only becomes probable when, in the absence of other reasonable causal explanations, it becomes more likely than not that the injury was a result of its action. This is the outer limit of inference upon which an issue may be submitted to the jury.
Similarly, in Alef v. Alta Bates Hospital (1992) 5 C.A.4th 208, 216 the court said:
In a medical malpractice action, the evidence must be sufficient to allow the jury to infer that in the absence of the defendant’s negligence, there was a reasonable medical probability the plaintiff would have obtained a better result.
Plaintiff’s experts have opined during depositions as to many possibilities in terms of causation for plaintiff’s alleged injuries. Mere possibility is insufficient for plaintiff to meet her burden of proof regarding causation, and so would be irrelevant on direct examination.
Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint includes a claim of elder abuse. Claims for dependent adult abuse arise under Welfare & Institutions Code § 15600 et seq. Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.07 defines abuse of an elder or dependent adult as either the following:
(a) Physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or treatment with resulting physical harm, or pain, or mental suffering.
(b) The deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid the physical harm or mental suffering.
The term care custodian is defined in Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.17 as follows:
Care custodian means an administrator or an employee of any of the following public or private facilities or agencies, or persons providing care or services for elders or dependent adults, including members of the support staff and maintenance staff:
(a) Twenty-four-hour health facilities, as defined in Sections 1250, 1250.2, and 1250.3 of the Health and Safety Code.
Universal Health does not fit into any of the definitions of care custodian listed in the statute. (See Part 6 of 11.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.