Taylor v. U.S., No. 86-2025

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore GOODWIN, BEEZER and THOMPSON; BEEZER
Citation821 F.2d 1428
PartiesIda J. TAYLOR, Iris Taylor, Tracy Taylor, by and through her Guardian ad Litem, Ida J. Taylor, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. UNITED STATES of America (Department of the Army Letterman Army Medical Center), Defendant-Appellant, California Medical Association and California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, Amici Curiae.
Decision Date16 July 1987
Docket NumberNo. 86-2025

Page 1428

821 F.2d 1428
8 Fed.R.Serv.3d 674
Ida J. TAYLOR, Iris Taylor, Tracy Taylor, by and through her
Guardian ad Litem, Ida J. Taylor, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
UNITED STATES of America (Department of the Army Letterman
Army Medical Center), Defendant-Appellant,
California Medical Association and California Association of
Hospitals and Health Systems, Amici Curiae.
No. 86-2025.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted June 9, 1987.
Decided July 16, 1987.

Page 1429

Irene M. Solet, Washington, D.C., for defendant-appellant.

Walter H. Walker, III, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Page 1430

Frederic D. Cohen and S. Thomas Todd, Encino, Cal., for amici curiae.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Before GOODWIN, BEEZER and THOMPSON, Circuit Judges.

BEEZER, Circuit Judge:

The United States appeals from judgment awarding Ida Taylor $500,000 in damages for loss of consortium and emotional distress. Taylor's husband sustained permanent brain damage while receiving medical treatment at Letterman Army Hospital. California Civil Code Sec. 3333.2, as incorporated by the Federal Tort Claims Act, limits recovery for noneconomic injuries in actions based on professional negligence to $250,000. Because the underlying injuries to Taylor's husband occurred in the hospital and during the course of medical treatment, we reverse the judgment and remand with directions to reduce noneconomic damages awarded to Taylor in accordance with Sec. 3333.2.

I Background

Taylor's husband suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. In July of 1982, Taylor's husband was hospitalized at Letterman Army Hospital for treatment of pneumonia. He depended completely on a ventilator for oxygen. For reasons not part of the record, Taylor's husband became disconnected from the ventilator. As a result of oxygen deprivation, Taylor's husband suffered severe and irreparable brain damage. Taylor herself was present when her husband became disconnected from his ventilator and witnessed efforts to revive him.

The government stipulated to liability for the incident. The only issues at trial were damages for each of Taylor's claims. The district court awarded Taylor $400,000 for loss of consortium and $100,000 for negligent infliction of emotional distress ("Dillon v. Legg " [68 Cal.2d 728; 69 Cal.Rptr. 72, 441 P.2d 912 (1968) ] claim). The government moved, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(a), 59(e) and 60(b), for reduction in damages to $250,000 under California Civil Code Sec. 3333.2 ("Sec. 3333.2"). The district court concluded that Taylor's claims were based on ordinary "common law" negligence rather than professional negligence, and that Sec. 3333.2 did not apply.

Taylor claims that the government waived the protection of Sec. 3333.2 by failing to raise the issue before judgment. The government denies waiver. The government argues that Taylor's claims are necessarily predicated on professional, not ordinary common law negligence, and that Sec. 3333.2 applies. In the alternative, the government claims that damages awarded Taylor were excessive and warrant reduction. The California Medical Association and the California Association of Hospital and Health Systems filed an amicus brief in support of the government.

II Discussion

A. Applicability of California Civil Code Sec. 3333.2

The Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA") provides that the government "shall be liable ... in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances...." 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2674. Liability is to be determined "in accordance with the law of the place where the [negligent] act or omission occurred." 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1346. In this case, the negligent act occurred in California. Accordingly, California law determines the nature and extent of the government's liability for Taylor's injuries. See Shaw v. United States, 741 F.2d 1202, 1205 (9th Cir.1984). Whether Sec. 3333.2 limits noneconomic damages recoverable by Taylor is a question of law, which this Court reviews de novo. 1

Page 1431

California enacted Sec. 3333.2 as part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act ("MICRA") in 1975. Section 3333.2 provides, in part

(a) In any action for injury against a health care provider based on professional negligence, the injured plaintiff shall be entitled to recover noneconomic losses to compensate for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement and other nonpecuniary damage.

(b) In no action shall the amount of damages for noneconomic losses exceed two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000).

Taylor claims that Sec. 3333.2 does not apply to her action because 1) the United States is not a health care provider within the meaning of Sec. 3333.2(c)(1), and 2) her claim is based on ordinary "garden-variety" negligence, not on professional negligence, as required by Sec. 3333.2(c)(2). 2

1. Section 3333.2 Applies To Actions Against The United States

Section 3333.2 applies to "any action for injury against a health care provider." Cal.Civ.Code Sec. 3333.2(a). Subsection (c)(1) defines "health care provider" as any person, clinic, health dispensary, or health facility licensed by the State. Taylor claims that the United States is not a health care provider because the United States is not licensed by California to operate Letterman Army Hospital.

In Hoffman v. United States, this Court held Sec. 3333.2 constitutional as applied in suits against the United States for professional negligence. 767 F.2d 1431 (9th Cir.1985). This Court reversed the district court judgment and remanded with directions "to amend the judgment to limit the noneconomic damages to $250,000." Id. at 1437. Hoffman assumed without discussion that Sec. 3333.2 applies to actions brought against the United States for professional negligence. We hold that Sec. 3333.2 applies to such actions.

Other circuits considering this question have concluded that liability limitations similar to Sec. 3333.2 apply to the United States, even though the statutes purport to apply only to state-licensed health care providers. See Lucas v. United States, 807 F.2d 414, 417 (5th Cir.1986); see also Scheib v. Florida Sanitarium and Benevolent Association, 759 F.2d 859, 863-64 (11th Cir.1985).

Private hospitals in California must be licensed under Division 2 of the California Health and Safety Code. Physicians must be licensed under provisions of the Health and Safety or Business and Professions Code. Had Taylor's husband suffered identical injuries while under the care of a private institution in California, Sec. 3333.2 would...

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82 practice notes
  • Garrison v. Target Corp., Appellate Case No. 2017-000267
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 15, 2020
    ..., the Ninth Circuit held that a statutory limit on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases was not an affirmative defense. 821 F.2d 1428, 1433 (9th Cir. 1987). Yet, the court acknowledged that application of the statute "may in some instances require resolution of factual issues" a......
  • Western Steamship Lines, Inc. v. San Pedro Peninsula Hospital, No. S033710
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 28, 1994
    ...We apply the same analysis to section 3333.2: The statute operates as a limitation on liability. (Taylor v. United States (9th Cir.1987) 821 F.2d 1428, 1433.) To the extent it precludes recovery for noneconomic damages against health care providers in excess of $250,000, it concomitantly li......
  • Bell v. Sharp Cabrillo Hospital, No. D006504
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 1, 1989
    ...of services for which the health care provider is licensed." (Id. at p. 57, 160 Cal.Rptr. 33.) (See also Taylor v. U.S. (9th Cir.1987) 821 F.2d 1428, 1432, echoing the Murillo standard and holding the hospital "had a professional duty to prevent Taylor's husband from becoming separated from......
  • Platte Anchor Bolt, Inc. v. Ihi, Inc., No. C-03-2984 VRW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 19, 2004
    ...(noting that pleading requirements in the federal courts are governed by federal rules and not by state rules); Taylor v. United States, 821 F.2d 1428, 1432 (9th Cir.1987) (finding that, despite the fact that state substantive law governs in suits under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the FRCP......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
82 cases
  • Garrison v. Target Corp., Appellate Case No. 2017-000267
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 15, 2020
    ..., the Ninth Circuit held that a statutory limit on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases was not an affirmative defense. 821 F.2d 1428, 1433 (9th Cir. 1987). Yet, the court acknowledged that application of the statute "may in some instances require resolution of factual issues" a......
  • Western Steamship Lines, Inc. v. San Pedro Peninsula Hospital, No. S033710
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 28, 1994
    ...We apply the same analysis to section 3333.2: The statute operates as a limitation on liability. (Taylor v. United States (9th Cir.1987) 821 F.2d 1428, 1433.) To the extent it precludes recovery for noneconomic damages against health care providers in excess of $250,000, it concomitantly li......
  • Bell v. Sharp Cabrillo Hospital, No. D006504
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 1, 1989
    ...of services for which the health care provider is licensed." (Id. at p. 57, 160 Cal.Rptr. 33.) (See also Taylor v. U.S. (9th Cir.1987) 821 F.2d 1428, 1432, echoing the Murillo standard and holding the hospital "had a professional duty to prevent Taylor's husband from becoming separated from......
  • Platte Anchor Bolt, Inc. v. Ihi, Inc., No. C-03-2984 VRW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 19, 2004
    ...(noting that pleading requirements in the federal courts are governed by federal rules and not by state rules); Taylor v. United States, 821 F.2d 1428, 1432 (9th Cir.1987) (finding that, despite the fact that state substantive law governs in suits under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the FRCP......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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