Case Name: Peralta v. San Jose Healthcare System, LP, et al.

Case No.: 17-CV-307632

Defendant Katrina Barnett, M.D. (“Defendant” or “Dr. Barnett”) moves for summary judgment in her favor and against plaintiff Hugo Peralta (“Plaintiff”).

After full review of the evidence, separate statements and authorities submitted by the parties, the Court makes the following rulings:

The Court declines to rule on Plaintiff’s evidentiary objections.  (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (q).)

Dr. Barnett’s motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.  In actions for medical negligence, “[t]he standard of care against which the acts of a physician are to be measured is a matter peculiarly within the knowledge of experts; it presents the basic issue in a malpractice action and can only be proved by their testimony.”[1]  (Flowers v. Torrance Memorial Hospital Medical Center (1994) 8 Cal.4th 992, 1001 [internal citations and quotations omitted].)  “California courts have incorporated the expert evidence requirement into their standard for summary judgment in medical malpractice cases.  When a defendant moves for summary judgment and supports his motion with expert declarations that his conduct fell within the community standard of care, he is entitled to summary judgment unless the plaintiff comes forward with conflicting expert evidence.”  (Munro v. Regents of University of California (1989) 215 Cal.App.3d 977, 984-985 [citations omitted].)


Here, contrary to Plaintiff’s assertions in his opposition, Dr. Barnett has met her initial burden by submitting the expert declaration of Dr. William Bresler who opines, based upon his review of the relevant medical records from Regional Medical Center, that Dr. Barnett complied at all times with the standard of care with respect to her participation in the diagnosis, care and treatment of Plaintiff.  (Declaration of Michael Bresler, M.D. in Support of Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, ¶¶ 14-17.)  Dr. Bresler’s opinion is supported by adequate foundation, and Plaintiff cites no authority (including offering a conflicting expert opinion) for the propositions that Defendant must establish that she was qualified to determine the viability of severed fingertips, as opposed to a plastic surgeon such as Dr. Churukian, and that she followed proper procedure in preserving the fingertips in order to meet her initial burden.  To the contrary, the onus is on Plaintiff to demonstrate, with expert evidence, that under the community standard of care, only certain types of physicians are qualified to determine finger viability for reattachment and a specified procedure is to be followed regarding preservation of fingertips.  Having failed to come forward with contrary expert evidence, Plaintiff has not demonstrated a triable issue of material fact.  Consequently, Dr. Barnett is entitled to summary judgment.

[1]The only exception to this standard is where the negligence is obvious to laymen.  (See Kelley v. Trunk (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 519, 523.)  In such a circumstance, expert testimony is not required for the plaintiff to provide malpractice.  (Id.)