Weekly Law Resume - September 29, 2011: Torts-Vicarious Liability-Joint Tortfeasors


PacifiCare of California, et al. v. Bright Medical Associates, Inc. Court of Appeals, Fourth District (September 2, 2011)

Code of Civil Procedure Section 877.6 provides that one defendant who is a "joint tortfeasor" may settle with a plaintiff and absolve itself of any equitable indemnity claims of other parties through a good faith settlement determination.

This case considered whether a party can object to a settlement where there are allegations that the parties were joint tortfeasors, but where the trial ultimately confirmed that the defendants' liability to the plaintiff was several, rather than joint.

Jerry Martin and his family sued PacifiCare of California doing business as Secure Horizons and PacifiCare Health Systems, LLC (collectively "PacifiCare"). The Martins asserted claims for insurance bad faith based on delays their wife and mother, Elsie Martin (Elsie), experienced while seeking out-of-network treatment for a cerebral aneurysm. The aneurysm ruptured and Elsie died before receiving the necessary care. Elsie's primary care physician belonged to cross-defendant Bright Medical Associates, Inc. ("Bright"), the health care provider who contracted with PacifiCare. Although Bright made all the decisions that delayed Elsie's medical care, the Martins did not file a claim against Bright. Instead, they claimed that PacifiCare owed a non-delegable duty to ensure that Elsie timely received all necessary medical care and treatment. Plaintiffs also claimed that PacifiCare was directly liable for the design and implementation of its medical plan. PacifiCare filed a cross-complaint for indemnity against Bright. During jury selection, Bright settled with the Martins for $300,000, conditioned on the trial court finding Bright and the Martins settled in good faith.

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