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.
It is worth noting that situations similar to those described in this medical malpractice case could just as easily occur at any of the healthcare facilities in the area, such as Kaiser Permanente, UC Davis Medical Center, Mercy, or Sutter.
(Please also note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this wrongful death case and its proceedings.)
California has adopted the substantial factor test for proving cause-in-fact, or actual cause, in negligence cases. Viner v. Sweet (2003) 30 Cal.4th 1232, 1238; Rutherford v. Owens-Ill., Inc. (1997) 16 Cal.4th 953, 968.) Per CACI 430, a substantial factor is one that a reasonable person would consider to have contributed to the harm suffered by the plaintiff. As reiterated most recently in Mayes v. Bryan (2006) 139 Cal.App.4th 1075: A substantial factor in causing harm is a factor that a reasonable person would consider to have contributed to the harm. It must be more than a remote or trivial factor. Id. at 1095. Ordinarily, the actor’s negligent conduct is not a substantial factor in bringing about harm to another if the harm would have been sustained even if the actor had not been negligent. Bromme v. Pavitt, supra, 5 Cal.App.4th at 1497-1498. If the conduct which is claimed to have caused the injury had nothing at all to do with the injuries, it could not be said that the conduct was a factor, let alone a substantial factor, in the production of the injuries. Doupnik v. GM Corp., (1990) 225 Cal.App.3d 849, 861.
Plaintiff’s mental health history is incredibly relevant to the issue of causation because it demonstrates the decedent’s intention and desire to end his life. One of the critical defenses that the Medical Center Defendants have put forth through the course of this litigation is the fact that Mr. Hill’s departure was abrupt considering he was feigning sleep immediately prior to his elopement. This signifies an intent to deceive medical providers into thinking he was complacent when he really wanted to escape. For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.
The past history of suicidal behavior only strengthens this contention. Plaintiff may want to hide Mr. Hill’s history in an attempt to establish that Mr. Hill had no suicidal intention at the time he eloped (and rather was not of sane mind when he ran out of the hospital) but his history suggests that his escape may well have been premeditated. His prior mental health history also implicates the U.S. Military which Defendants contend played a role in Mr. Hill’s demise. The gravity of his prior mental health issues help determine whether the military should have released Mr. Hill to duty in the first place.
For all the reasons articulated above, Defendants should be able to put forth evidence of Mr. Hill’s prior mental health as a contributing factor to his demise because the mental health history goes directly to the issue of whether a force other than Defendants (such as Mr. Hill’s numerous tours of duty and military involvement) were the cause of his death.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.