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Stewart v St Mary’s Medical Center
McMahan Law, PC secures a significant victory for its clients in a landmark Elder Abuse decision.
FACTS: The petition underlying this appeal challenged a trial court order summarily adjudicating a cause of action under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (the Act), a cause of action for fraud by concealment, and another for medical battery, while allowing other claims, including one for medical negligence, to proceed to trial. Petitioner Maxine Stewart was the representative of Anthony Carter, a man who died after admission to a hospital owned by real parties in interest, St. Joseph’s Health (et al.). She alleged the hospital “denied and withheld from Mr. Carter the right to refuse an unnecessary surgery, denied and withheld from Mr. Carter the right to be involved in secret hospital meetings to invalidate his designated consent, and denied and withheld from Mr. Carter his right to a second opinion prior to proceeding with an unwarranted surgery that resulted in a hypoxic injury, brain damage, cardiac arrest and his untimely death.”
The appellate court issued the peremptory writ of mandate and vacated the trial court’s grant of summary adjudication. The court found that there were triable issues of material fact as to the claims for elder abuse, fraud by concealment, and medical battery. The court held that elders have the right to autonomy in the medical decision-making process and that deprivation of this right can constitute actionable “neglect” under California’s elder abuse laws. Further, the court found that a reasonable jury could find that the hospital failed to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs, and failed to protect the elder from health and safety hazards.
Additionally, the court found that there were multiple triable issues of fact which would not warrant summary adjudication of the fraud by concealment claim, including the possibility that the hospital could have intentionally concealed the ethics committee meeting and the surgery from Stewart. Lastly, although the hospital argued it was not liable for medical battery caused by the surgery because the surgeons were independent contractors, the court found that there were triable issues of fact regarding the hospital’s involvement in proceeding with the surgery. Accordingly, the trial court’s order granting summary adjudication was vacated.