A A A 

Tentative Ruling
Judge Thomas Anderle
Department 3 SB-Anacapa
1100 Anacapa Street P.O. Box 21107 Santa Barbara, CA 93121-1107

CIVIL LAW & MOTION

Robert R. Eldon v. Corizon Health, et al.

Case No: 17CV00029
Hearing Date: Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:30

Nature of Proceedings: Motion Strike (2)

Defendants Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s Motion to Strike Portions of Third Amended Complaint;

Defendant Corizon Health, Inc.’s Motion to Strike Portions of Third Amended Complaint

ATTORNEYS

Robert R. Eldon, plaintiff in pro per

Barbara A. Carroll for defendants Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital

Matthew M. Grigg for defendant Corizon Health, Inc.

RULING   

The motion to strike of defendants Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and the motion to strike of defendant Corizon Health, Inc. are granted. Plaintiff’s request for punitive damages and his request for a specified amount of damages are ordered stricken from the third amended complaint as set forth herein.

BACKGROUND

This is an action for alleged negligence against three health care providers. At the time of the events in the case, plaintiff Robert R. Eldon was incarcerated in the Santa Barbara County Jail. While incarcerated, plaintiff developed a very large hernia. Plaintiff was transported by ambulance to defendant Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital (“GVCH”) and given medication. Plaintiff’s hernia was reduced and he was discharged back to the Jail. A few days later, plaintiff was again transported to GVCH with complaints of ongoing pain in his abdomen. Plaintiff’s hernia was again reduced and he was discharged back to the Jail. Plaintiff’s hernia was further evaluated by defendant Corizon Health, Inc. (“Corizon”) while he was in the County Jail, but no treatment or care was provided. During a third visit to GVCH, plaintiff’s hernia was reduced by medication and he was given a hernia belt. Approximately two weeks later, doctors at the County Clinic Hospital, next to the Jail, surgically repaired plaintiff’s hernia.

Plaintiff contends that he should have been referred to a surgeon immediately by defendants. On January 5, 2017, plaintiff filed his original complaint against Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital (“SBCH”), GVCH, and Corizon. Following a succession of demurrers and motions to strike, plaintiff filed a first amended complaint on June 13, 2017, a second amended complaint on August 30, 2017, and a third amended complaint (“TAC”) on November 15, 2017. The TAC alleges three negligence claims against defendants. Defendants SBCH and GVCH now move to strike portions of the TAC. In a separate motion, Corizon also moves to strike portions of the TAC. There is no filed opposition to either motion.  

ANALYSIS

SBCH and GVCH’s Motion to Strike

Code of Civil Procedure Section 435, subdivision (b)(1), provides that “[a]ny party, within the time allowed to respond to a pleading may serve and file a notice of motion to strike the whole or any part thereof.” The grounds for a motion to strike are set forth in Code of Civil Procedure Section 436, which provides:

“The court may, upon a motion made pursuant to Section 435, or at any time in its discretion, and upon terms it deems proper:

“(a) Strike out any irrelevant, false, or improper matter inserted in any pleading.

“(b) Strike out all or any part of any pleading not drawn or filed in conformity with the laws of this state, a court rule, or an order of the court.”

SBCH and GVCH move to strike the request for punitive damages in Paragraph 14(a)(2), page 3, of the TAC. In California, punitive damages may not be alleged against a health care provider without first obtaining leave of court. Code of Civil Procedure Section 425.13, subdivision (a), provides:

“In any action for damages arising out of the professional negligence of a health care provider, no claim for punitive damages shall be included in a complaint or other pleading unless the court enters an order allowing an amended pleading that includes a claim for punitive damages to be filed. The court may allow the filing of an amended pleading claiming punitive damages on a motion by the party seeking the amended pleading and on the basis of the supporting and opposing affidavits presented that the plaintiff has established that there is a substantial probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim pursuant to Section 3294 of the Civil Code. . . .”

The courts have uniformly held that Section 425.13 applies to any action filed against a health care provider that relates to the providing of health care services, even where the claim involves allegations of intentional wrongdoing. See, Central Pathology Service Medical Clinic, Inc. v. Superior Court (1992) 3 Cal.4th 181, 192 (plaintiff’s causes of action for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress were subject to Section 425.13 because the claims were directly related to the manner in which defendants provided professional services); Cooper v. Superior Court (1997) 56 Cal.App.4th 744, 749 (applicability of Section 425.13 does not depend upon the technical distinction between pleading intentional as opposed to negligent tort theories where the claim arises out of the manner in which the professional services were provided). The legislative purpose behind Section 425.13 is to prevent unsubstantiated claims for punitive damages from being included in a complaint against health care providers by requiring the plaintiff to demonstrate in a pretrial hearing that he or she possesses a legally sufficient claim that is supported by competent evidence. Looney v. Superior Court (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 521, 532.

Here, plaintiff failed to follow the requirements of Section 425.13 as he has alleged punitive damages against defendant health care providers without first seeking leave of court. Accordingly, the Court will grant defendants’ motion to strike. The request for punitive damages in Paragraph 14(a)(2), page 3, is ordered stricken from the TAC as to SBCH and GVCH.

The Court will also grant defendants’ motion to strike plaintiff’s request for a specific amount of damages. Code of Civil Procedure Section 425.10, subdivision (b), provides in relevant part:

“[W]here an action is brought to recover actual . . . damages for personal injury or wrongful death, the amount demanded shall not be stated . . . .”

In Paragraph 11(g), page 3, of the TAC, plaintiff requests damages “in the amount of $342,000.00 in order to go to the hospital to get care denied to [him] at the jail.” Because plaintiff has demanded a specified amount of damages, the allegation is ordered stricken as to the moving defendants.

Corizon’s Motion to Strike

Corizon has filed a nearly identical motion to strike. For the same reasons stated above, plaintiff’s request for punitive damages and his request for a specified amount of damages are ordered stricken from the TAC as to Corizon.

 
© Superior Court of the County of Santa Barbara
Locations & Contact Info | Court Security | Human Resources | Privacy Policy | ADA