February 23, 2021
Collins v. County of San Diego (Feb. 17, 2021, D077063) __ Cal.App.5th __ [2021 WL 612570]
Plaintiff was arrested for public intoxication and sustained injuries both in jail and in the hospital during treatment of his injuries. Plaintiff sued the County and the hospital. The hospital settled before trial for $2,750,000 that was not apportioned between economic and noneconomic damages. After a jury trial, judgment was entered against the County for over $12 million.
The County sought to reduce the judgment in part by offsetting the portion of the hospital/physicians’ settlement attributable to economic damages (the only portion that can be used as an offset). The trial court concluded the settlement should be allocated in proportion to the jury’s verdict against the County, and therefore allocated 63.4% of the entire $2,750,000 settlement, almost $2 million, to noneconomic damages, even though California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) limited the hospital’s liability for noneconomic damages to $250,000. This calculation left only 36.6% of the settlement, $1,006,500, as an offset against the economic damages awarded against the County.
The County appealed, contending that the trial court should have allocated no more than $250,000 of the settlement to noneconomic damages (i.e., the full MICRA limit), thereby leaving a much greater percentage of the settlement available as a setoff against economic damages and reducing the judgment against the County by an additional $1.5 million. But the Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that under Rashidi v. Moser (2014) 60 Cal.4th 718, the MICRA cap does not apply to formulas used to account for other tortfeasors’ settlement amounts.