In Samantha B. v. Aurora Vista Del Mar, LLC, B302321 (Cal. Ct. App. December 20, 2021), the defendants appealed a jury verdict for the plaintiffs arguing that the plaintiffs’ causes of actions were time-barred and their damages were limited by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (“MICRA”).
MICRA is a legislative scheme that is intended to reduce the cost of medical malpractice insurance by, among other things, limiting the time for plaintiffs to bring their causes of action for professional negligence and limiting the amount of recovery for non-economic damages. The California Court of Appeal for the Second District explained that professional negligence and the Elder Abuse Act are separate and distinct theories of liability. The Elder Abuse Act requires a plaintiff to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is guilty of something more than negligence; they must show reckless, oppressive, fraudulent, or malicious conduct. Thus, the Court found that while the plaintiffs' causes of action based on professional negligence may be barred by the statute of limitations, their causes of action for elder abuse were not.
Cal. Wel. & Inst. Code § 15657(b), part of the Elder Abuse Act, provides that the limitations on recoverable damages imposed by Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 377.34 shall not apply; however, the damages recovered shall not exceed the damages permitted to be recovered pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 3333.2(b), the part of MICRA that limits non-economic damages to $250,000. The Court explained that the Elder Abuse Act’s reference to Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 377.34, which prohibits damages for non-economic loss in actions on behalf of decedents, meant that the Act’s imposition of the MICRA limit on non-economic damages only applied to causes of action brought on behalf of decedents. Because in this action the plaintiffs were alive, the limitation of non-economic damages in Cal. Wel. & Inst. Code § 15657(b) did not apply and the plaintiffs’ non-economic damages were not limited.
The Court affirmed the judgment and awarded costs to the plaintiffs.