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 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 medical malpractice/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
Neither the California Supreme Court nor the appellate courts have ever held that a single plaintiff car recover more than the MICRA limit for noneconomic damages. To the contrary, the courts have consistently limited the maximum recovery to $250,000, regardless of the number of claims alleged. See Fein v. Permanente Med. Group, 38 Cal.3d 137, 157-164(1985) a reduction of noneconomic damages to $250,000 when multiple diagnostic errors occurred); Atkins v. Strayhorn, 223 Cal.App.3d 1380, 1394 [ (1990) (limiting a husband and wife to $250,000 each for noneconomic danages); Under section 3333.2, the injured plaintiff’ is entitled to recover noneconomic losses up to $250,000 [i]n any action for injury against a health care provider based on professional negligence.
In addition to Owren being an injured plaintiff, Eileen is also an injured plaintiff, having been awarded damages for loss of consortium. Although her cause of action arises from bodily injury to her husband, the injury suffered is personal to her. “Loss of her husband’s consortium impairs a wife’s interests which are wholly separate and distinct from that of her husband: … the wife’s loss is just as real as it is distinct. She can no longer enjoy her legally sanctioned and morally proper privilege of copulation or procreation, and is otherwise deprived of her full enjoyment of her marital state. These are her rights, not his.”
(Atkins, supra, 223 Cal.App.3d at 1394, citations omitted, italics in original.)] Yates v. Pollock, 194 Cal.App.3d 195, 200 [ (1987) (finding that the maximum recovery [for noneconomic damages] permitted in any single medical malpractice action is $250,000 regardless of the number of plaintiffs involved ); Engalla v. Permanente Med. Group, 15 Cal.4th 951, 969 [ (1997) (observing that a single plaintiff with a claim for wrongful death and loss of consortium was limited to an aggregate maximum potential recovery of $250,000 for all noneconomic damages).
In Engalla, a husband and wife had originally sued for medical malpractice and loss of consortium. Before the claims could be arbitrated, Mr. Engalla died. The Supreme Court noted that upon the passing of Engalla, the case of Yates v. Pollock [ required merger of the widow’s loss of consortium claim into an indivisible claim for wrongful death, which warrants only a single general damage claim limited to $250,000.
The district court turned aside Mrs. Colburn’s argument that under Burgess v. Superior Court (1992) 2 Cal.4th 1064, MICRA’s limitation should apply to each of her claims, thus allowing a potential recovery of $750,000 for her three remainirg claims for wrongful death and NIED. (Colburn, supra, 45 F. Supp.2d 787 at 793.) (See Part 5 of 7.)
For more information you are welcome to contact personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.