California Appellate Court Holds Paramedic Failed to Exercise Care When Driving Rather Than When Rendering Professional Services, So Two-Year Statute of Limitations Applies and Plaintiff’s Claim not Time-Barred

In a recent opinion, a California appellate court held that the ordinary statute of limitations for negligence applied to negligence claims following a “garden variety” car accident, despite the fact that a paramedic supervisor had been driving toward an accident victim at the time of the collision.  The court reviewed the lower court’s ruling that the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) time-barred the plaintiff’s lawsuit. At issue on appeal was whether the paramedic had been rendering professional services at the time of the accident.

Mike Stillwagon worked as a paramedic supervisor and was driving his employer’s pickup truck en route to an injured fall victim as an additional resource. An ambulance had already been dispatched. At an intersection, Mr. Stillwagon collided with a vehicle driven by Gerardo Aldana.

A year and a half later, Mr. Aldana sued Mr. Stillwagon for damages suffered in the collision, alleging negligence.  The trial court granted Mr. Stillwater summary judgment on the ground that Mr. Aldana’s claim was time-barred by MICRA’s one-year statute of limitations.

Under MICRA, plaintiffs alleging professional negligence against a health care provider must file their lawsuit one year from the date that the injury is discoverable. The trial court found that since Mr. Aldana filed suit after this time period, his lawsuit was untimely. The court relied on the logic that a non-ambulance vehicle driven by a paramedic supervisor on the way to a victim is performing integral services provided by an ambulance driver.

Mr. Aldana alleged the lower court should not have applied MICRA because there had not been a connection to professional services rendered at the time of the collision.

Before the appellate court heard oral argument, the state Supreme Court decided Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (2016) 63 Cal.4th 75, and the issue was clarified.  According to this case, the special statute of limitations for professional negligence against health care providers only applies to actions that allege injury due to negligence in the rendering of professional services.

On appeal, the court of appeal turned to the statute, Code Civ. Proc. §340.5, to address the issue of whether driving to an accident victim in a non-ambulance vehicle constituted “professional services.”  MICRA defines professional negligence as negligence in the rendering of professional services, when that act is within the scope of services the provider is licensed to perform.

Here, the appellate court stated that driving en route to an accident victim is not equivalent to providing medical care to the victim. Paramedics must exercise due care while driving, and this is not necessary or otherwise related to the medical treatment and diagnosis of patients.  The judgment was reversed.

The car accident attorneys at Sharifi Firm provide guidance and representation to victims throughout Southern California in personal injury claims for compensation.  Contact our office today for a free consultation at 866-422-7222 or complete our online form.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Holds Sham Pleading Did Not Apply in California Car Accident Case When Plaintiffs Were Unclear on Factual Basis for Liability, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, July 22, 2016

California Court of Appeal Finds in Favor of Plaintiff in Car Accident Lawsuit When Evidence Fails to Show Plaintiff’s Consent to Settlement Agreement, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, June 9, 2016

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