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Ben Glass
Ben Glass
Attorney • (703) 584-7277

California Personal Injury Decision

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In general personal injury law, the wrongdoer is responsible if his actions cause a series of events which themselves cause further injury. This is the personal injury law of Virginia. A recent California case highlights almost the reverse of the issue. It allows a wrongdoer to reduce his liability for damages caused by a subsequent treating health care provider.

A Court of Appeals in the Second Appellate District of California has held that defendants have an entitlement to
introduce evidence of the fault of a nonparty medical professional in aggravating the personal injuries of a
plaintiff and seek a fault allocation against that professional.

The case came about after a husband and wife filed a premises liability suit under the homeowner’s policy of the
defendant after the husband suffered a personal injury to his shoulder from a fall after he had been hired to clean
and repair the homeowner’s pool.

The homeowners sought the introduction of evidence that would allege medical malpractice by emergency room doctors. The doctors allegedly broke the plaintiff’s shoulder in four places during their attempt to put it back in place, which required several surgeries to repair. The homeowners argued entitlement to introduce the evidence, despite Kaiser Permanente not being a party, for the purpose of seeking a fault allocation against the hospital.

Evidence of the alleged negligence of the hospital was excluded by the trial court, which held that evidence of
medical malpractice can only be introduced if the original claim is also for medical malpractice.The appellate court reversed the decision and issued a writ. It was held that if an injured plaintiff files suit
against an original tortfeasor alone, the defendant has an entitlement to reduce any liability for non-economic
damages with the introduction of a share of fault for the aggravated injuries of the plaintiff by a nonparty medical
professional.