Jul 20, 2007 Kent L. Richland
In case of first impression, Court of Appeal construes “health care providers” in MICRA statute to apply to optometry intern

Chosak v. Alameda County Medical Center (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 549 (California Court of Appeal, First District, Division One) [published]. Plaintiff had sued an optometry intern for injuries to her foot during an eye examination, alleging that the intern improperly operated the examination chair. GMSR’s hospital client demurred on the ground that the action was time-barred under Code of Civil Procedure section 340.5, which governs actions for medical negligence against health care providers. Plaintiff argued that the intern was not a “health care provider” within the meaning of the statute, because she was not licensed to practice optometry pursuant to any of the licensing provisions set forth in section 340.5. The trial court rejected this position, and the court of appeal affirmed that decision, holding in a case of first impression that a medical student who is expressly exempt from the licensing requirements and, therefore, legally practicing without a license, is a “health care provider” for purposes of the MICRA statute of limitations provisions. While agreeing with the plaintiff that the statute could be strictly read to include only “licensed” professionals, the court ultimately sided with the position advocated by GMSR lawyers Carolyn Oill and Kent Richland that to exclude exempt providers from the coverage of MICRA “would work at cross-purposes to the Legislature’s objective” in enacting the MICRA statutes, which was to reduce insurance premiums for health care providers.