Key Decisions

June 2012 – To Prove A Non-Party Doctor’s Malpractice

(filed under: | June 16, 2012)

Other Cases Of Interest

To Prove A Non-Party Doctor’s Malpractice Was A Cause Of The Plaintiff’s Injuries, A Personal Injury Defendant Must Prove Every Element Of A Medical Malpractice Claim

Chakalis v. Elevator Solutions, Inc.
(Cal. Ct. of App., 2d Dist.), filed May 18, 2012 

Katerina Chakalis sustained personal injuries after the elevator in her apartment building malfunctioned and fell six floors. She sued: (1) Elevator Solutions, Inc. (ESI), the elevator maintenance company that serviced the malfunctioning elevator; (2) Fountain Springs Manor Home Owners Association; (3) Ross Morgan & Company, the property manager; and (4) Karim Merat, Ross Morgan’s agent.

At trial, the defendants sought to blame a substantial portion of plaintiff’s claimed injuries on the medical malpractice of a doctor, James Dahlgren. They sought to introduce evidence of Dr. Dahlgren’s malpractice. However, the trial court sustained Chakalis’ objections to questions posed to a defense expert.

The jury returned a mixed verdict. Although the jury awarded Chakalis damages, it found that ESI was not liable. The jury instead found that the homeowners association was 25 percent at fault; Ross Morgan and Karim Merat were 15 percent at fault; and Chakalis, herself, was 8 percent at fault. The jury also found that Dr. James Dahlgren, who was not even a defendant, was 52 percent at fault.

Chakalis appealed based on the fact that the jury attributed a portion of the fault to Dr. Dahlgren.

The Court of Appeal affirmed as to ESI, but reversed and remanded as to the remaining defendants. It held that the jury erred in attributing fault to Dr. Dahlgren because the defendants had failed to prove each element of a medical malpractice claim against him. (Since the jury found ESI was not liable, the misallocation of fault did not impact it.)

The court held that because Chakalis had improperly objected to the defendants’ efforts to prove Dr. Dahlgren committed medical malpractice, she had invited the error that resulted in the jury misallocating fault. As a result, she was not entitled to have the proportion of fault recalculated without a new trial at which the defendants could attempt to establish the elements of a medical malpractice claim.