The following blog entry is written from a defendant’s position during pre-trial litigation. Reviewing this kind of briefing should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in a medical malpractice case 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 personal injury case and its proceedings.)
SUMMARY JUDGMENT MUST BE GRANTED WHEN MOVING PARTY DEMONSTRATES THAT THE ACTION IS WITHOUT MERIT
A defendant may move for summary judgment in any action or proceeding if it contends the cause of action has no merit. (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (a).) The cause of action has no merit if:
1. One or more of the elements of the cause of action cannot be separately established, even if that element is separately pleaded, or
2. A defendant establishes an affirmative defense to the cause of action. (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (n).)
The motion shall be granted if all of the papers submitted show there is no triable issue as to any material fact and the defendant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (c).) Any alleged disputes must concern material facts.
… [O]nce a party bears the initial burden of demonstrating an entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, the opposing party may not defeat summary judgment by attempting to generate a factual dispute as to immaterial issues … (Romero v. American President Lines, Ltd. (1995 38 Cal.App.4th 1199, 1203.)
Defendant need only present evidence that one or more of the elements of the cause of action cannot be established in order to prevail on a motion for summary judgment. (Union Bank v. Los Angeles Superior Court (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 573.) The burden then shifts to plaintiffs to present sufficient, competent evidence so as to raise a triable issue of material fact. If plaintiffs fail to present sufficient evidence on any element addressed by defendant, summary judgment must be granted in favor of the moving party. (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (o)(2).)
The elements for a wrongful death action include (1) a wrongful act or neglect on the part of one or more persons that (2) causes (3) the death of [another] person. (Code Civ. Proc. § 377.60; see also, Norgart v. Upjohn Co. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 383.) To prevail on this cause of action, plaintiffs must plead and prove duty, breach of duty, causation and damages. (St. Francis Medical Center v. Superior Court (1987) 194 Cal.App.3d 668, 671.) As has been argued in detail, infra, defendant did not breach any duty of care owed to plaintiffs decedents, and defendant did not perform any act or omission which caused decedents death.
Plaintiff’s have contended that due to the professional negligence of UMH, and the neglect with which they treated the twins, caused their injuries, which in turn led to their deaths. (See, plaintiffs complaint.) UMH was not negligent in their care and treatment of the twins. Defendant has presented uncontroverted evidence that it did not breach its respective duties of care to plaintiffs decedents. Plaintiffs therefore cannot prove their causes of action for negligence and accordingly, defendant’s motion for summary judgment should be granted. (See Part 4 of 9.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.