The following blog entry is written from a defendant’s position as trial approaches. Reviewing this kind of briefing should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in personal injury cases present such issues to the court.
(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this vehicle accident/medical malpractice case and its proceedings.)
CAUSATION MUST BE PROVEN WITHIN A REASONABLE MEDICAL PROBABILITY
As the court is aware, in personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s culpable conduct was the proximate cause of the Plaintiff’s injuries. “Proximate” or “legal” cause adds to the requirement that the defendant’s culpable conduct be the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Accordingly, the Plaintiff should be precluded from recovery when the causal relationship between the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injury does not justify imposing tort responsibility on the defendant.
To that end, the law in this state is well settled that in a personal injury action, causation must be proven within a reasonable medical probability based upon competent expert testimony. Jones v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp. (1985) 163 Cal.App.3d 396,402. Mere possibility alone is insufficient to establish a prima facie case. Id. at 403. To that end, there can be an infinite number of causes and circumstances which can produce injury or disease, however, 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 Defendants’ action. Bromme v. Pavitt (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 1487.
The leading case regarding the degree of proof required for causation in a malpractice case is Morgenroth v. Pacific Medical Center, (1976) 54 Cal.App.3d 521; 126 Cal.Rptr. 681, wherein the plaintiff suffered a stroke during a coronary angiogram, resulting in permanent brain damage. At the time of trial, plaintiffs’ expert testified that the stroke was probably a complication of the procedure rather than a coincidence. Affirming the judgment of non-suit, the Court of Appeals referred to plaintiffs’ expert testimony as highly ambiguous and conjecture. Id. at 533. (See Part 3 of 6.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.