Samantha B. v. Aurora Vista Del Mar, LLCAnnotate this Case
Civil Code section 3333.2, known as the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA), limits noneconomic damages to $250,000 based on professional negligence. The Court of Appeal held that this limitation does not apply to plaintiffs' causes of action under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. In this case, plaintiffs, former patients at an acute psychiatric hospital, suffered sexual abuse by a hospital employee. The jury subsequently found in plaintiffs' favor and awarded substantial noneconomic damages against both defendants, as well as punitive damages against the management company.
The court affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs' cause of action based on professional negligence may be barred by the statute of limitations, but their cause of action for elder abuse is not. The court also concluded that clear and convincing evidence supports the finding that defendants were reckless in their failure to protect plaintiffs from elder abuse. The court rejected defendants' challenges to the jury instructions. Finally, the court concluded that the damages are not excessive; the jury correctly attributed 70 percent of the fault to defendants; and the punitive damages were supported by clear and convincing evidence of malice or oppression.
In regard to plaintiffs' appeal, the court concluded that it need not make a determination of liability under the respondeat superior doctrine where the court could uphold liability under the Elder Abuse Act. The court explained that plaintiffs have suffered the same harm whether the theory of recovery is breach of the Elder Abuse Act or respondeat superior. Finally, plaintiffs' ratification count has the same limitation as their respondeat superior count.