On August 12, 2011, the Fourth Appellate Court of Appeals of California decided Carter v. Prime Healthcare Paradise Valley LLC and affirmed a San Diego Trial Court's ruling sustaining the defendant hospital's Demurrer to plaintiffs' cause of action under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA). The case is now being used aggressively by defendant nursing homes and other care facilities for the elderly to try and defeat an EADACPA cause of action at the early stages of litigation. While the case does nothing to change the pleading requirements of an EADACPA cause of action, trial courts throughout California appear confused about Carter's application to well established law. In fact, Carter concedes that all it is doing is merely "distilling" current law to provide a clear road map for litigants to follow to trigger the enhanced remedies available under EADACPA. See Carter at 406. Accordingly, nothing new is added to California law regarding an EADACPA cause of action. However, because of the confusion at the trial court level, trial courts appear more inclined to sustain a demurrer to an EADACPA cause of action than they have in the past. As such, many EADACPA "worthy" cases are now limited by the constraints of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which severely limits the compensation a plaintiff may recover for its injuries in a Medical Negligence case. Therefore, it is important that any potential EADACPA plaintiff is represented by an attorney who is well versed in this area of law who can properly plead an EADACPA cause of action around the confusion set forth by Carter.
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