Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wickline v. State case brief

Wickline v. State case brief summary
239 Cal.Rptr. 810 (1986)

Appellant, the state of California, sought review of a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), which was entered on a jury verdict against appellant, finding appellant legally responsible for the harm caused to respondent patient, a Medi-Cal recipient, by reason of the amputation of her leg.


Appellant state was the third party payor liable for respondent patient's medical costs. When respondent had major surgery, her doctors obtained appellant's approval for a 10-day hospital stay. Respondent's recovery was slow and her doctors requested an 8-day extension from appellant. Appellant authorized only 4 more days, and her doctors complied, discharging her 18 days after surgery. Respondent suffered post-discharge complications resulting in an infection that required her leg to be amputated. Respondent claimed that appellant was legally responsible for her injuries, because its cost containment program affected the implementation of her doctor's medical judgment. A jury agreed with respondent, and the trial court entered judgment accordingly. Appellant sought review.


  • The court reversed, finding that the decision to discharge respondent was the responsibility of respondent's own doctors; was based upon the prevailing standards of practice; and was justified by her condition at the time of her discharge. 
  • Because appellant was not a party to that medical decision, as a matter of law appellant could not be held liable if such decision were negligently made.

The judgment was reversed. As a matter of law, appellant state, in its capacity as respondent patient's health care insurer under the state Medi-Cal program, was not liable for injuries respondent suffered when she developed post-surgical complications, resulting in her leg being amputated.

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