SAN FRANCISCO – An appeals court has disagreed with a lower court's ruling that a medical negligence complaint was not a notice of lawsuit under the meaning of Section 364.
Plaintiff Venna Kumari's claim letter of intent to sue defendant ValleyCare Health System (ValleyCare) accepted by the trial court has been rejected the California First District Court of Appeal in a July 10 ruling.
After having a caesarian birth in 2013 at ValleyCare Health System (ValleyCare), Kumari said she fell and fractured her shoulder due to the negligence of a nurse, who left her unattended in the hall. Within six months Kumari sent a letter to ValleyCare claiming medical negligence and monetary damages in the amount of $240,000 to compensate for her inability to bond with her newborn and return to work.
Kumari threatened to “move to the court” if she did not receive payment in 20 days. After ValleyCare rejected her claims, inevitably defending the nurse, Kumari and her husband sued ValleyCare for medical negligence and loss of consortiumin in 2015; however, the the trial court granted ValleyCare’s summary judgment motion, “concluding Kumari’s letter constituted a notice of intent to sue pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 364 which did not extend the statute of limitations,” according to the appeals court decision.
However, the court of appeals disagrees. In the appeals court decision, "the ruling Section 340.5 requires medical malpractice actions be brought within the earlier of three years from the date of injury or “one year after the plaintiff discovers . . . the injury, whichever occurs first, the appeals court ruled.
"Here, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of Kumari’s Oct. 29, 2013 injury. Section 364 precludes a plaintiff from filing a professional negligence action against a health care provider unless the plaintiff has given the health care provider 90 days notice 'of the intention to commence the action.'”
The appeals court did not accept that Kumari’s letter was not a notice of lawsuit under Section 364 because it was not “informal,” as the plaintiff stated. Citing several cases, the court of appeals pointed out Edwards v. Superior Court (2001), and that under the precedent her letter "was under Section 364 a notice of intent to sue."
The court of appeals also rejected Kumari’s reliance that “the plaintiffs’ counsel’s Oct. 27, 2014, letter was a “second notice, which did not extend the limitations period,” according to the appeals court decision of the complaint.
“Summary judgment for ValleyCare was properly granted,” the appeals court ruled.