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Death As a Resulted from Medical Treatment After Car Accident

In Hastie v. Handeland (1969) 274 Cal. App. 2d 599 79 Cal. Rptr. 268, a case involving a vehicular collision and subsequent death of the victim following medical care, Division One of the Fourth District determined that the original tortfeasor was liable for the subsequent injury suffered during medical treatment. ( Id. at pp. 604-605, 79 Cal. Rptr. 2d 268).

"If death resulted from a risk inherent in the medical treatment reasonably required to cure the injuries caused by the accident, respondents original tortfeasors would be liable irrespective of whether such treatment was rendered in a proper or a negligent manner.

The question is one of causation, and where the additional harm results either from the negligence of doctors or hospitals who furnish necessary medical care, or from the materialization of a risk inherent to necessary medical care, the chain of causation set in motion by the original tort remains unbroken." ( Id. at p. 606).

In Maxwell v. Powers (1994) 22 Cal. App. 4th 1596 28 Cal. Rptr. 2d 62, Division One of the Fourth District cited Ash v. Mortensen, supra, 24 Cal. 2d 654, and Hastie v. Handeland, supra, 274 Cal. App. 2d 599, in its determination that BAJI No. 14.66 should have been given to the jury.

In Maxwell v. Powers, injured motorcyclist David Maxwell was initially treated by Louis H. Powers, a Scripps Hospital trauma unit physician. After Maxwell's injuries were subsequently aggravated by the negligence of a Kaiser Foundation Health Plan physician, Maxwell sued Powers.

The appellate court determined that BAJI No. 14.66 should have been given as part of the instructions to the jury. at that time, BAJI No. 14.66 read:

"If you find that the defendant is liable for the original injury if any to the plaintiff, he is also liable:. . . (2) for any aggravation of the original injury or additional injury caused by negligent medical or hospital treatment or care of the original injury." (Maxwell v. Powers, supra, 22 Cal. App. 4th at p. 1606).

The court explained: "The principle usually appears in cases involving automobile accidents, where the initial tortfeasor's careless driving exposed the plaintiff to a risk of physical harm, including medical treatment for the injuries resulting from the accident.

The initial tortfeasor therefore is liable for the resultant medical treatment. the rationale for the rule is that such medical treatment 'is closely and reasonably associated with the immediate consequences of the defendant's act and forms a normal part of its aftermath.'

Put more succinctly, the rationale has been expressed as 'subsequent negligent medical treatment is foreseeable as a matter of law.' . . . When subsequent medical treatment of an injury results in aggravation of the injury, the original tortfeasor is liable because he or she 'is always considered to be a proximate cause of the plaintiff's further injuries." ( Maxwell v. Powers, supra, 22 Cal. App. 4th at pp. 1606-1607).