Judge: Joel L. Lofton, Case: BC612473, Date: 2023-03-13 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: BC612473    Hearing Date: March 13, 2023    Dept: X


Judge Joel L. Lofton, Department X




Tentative Ruling on Defendants’ Motion for Nonsuit


Defendants Ronald Woodard MD and Huntington Memorial Hospital made an oral motion for nonsuit at the close of Plaintiffs’ case and subsequently filed a written motion which the Court has read and considered.  The Court will not consider a Motion for Directed Verdict at this time as such a motion is premature where all parties have not yet completed the presentation of their evidence (CCP § 630(a).). 

Defendants’ Motion for Nonsuit has two grounds: (1) Yuto and Amy by and through her Guardian ad Litem have failed to show how the alleged breaches of the standard of care by Dr. Woodard caused them to suffer any damages and that, (2) Landy Peraza has not shown evidence that she suffered any damages.

In their moving papers, Defendants stated that the Court granted nonsuit for the second cause of action against both Defendants on March 8, 2023.  This is incorrect; however, the Court grants such motion at this time.           


To establish a claim for wrongful death, “plaintiffs must prove ‘(1) a “wrongful act or neglect” on the part of one or more persons [(that is, negligence)] that (2) “cause[s]” (3) the “death of [another] person.” ’ [Citation.]  A person may be liable either for (1) his own negligence, in which case he is directly liable for the resulting death, or (2) someone else’s negligence, in which case he is vicariously liable because—in the eyes of the law—the other person’s negligence is deemed to be his own. [Citations.] A person acts negligently only if he ‘ “had a duty to use due care” ’ and ‘ “breached that duty.” ’ ”  (Musgrove v. Silver (2022) 82 Cal.App.5th 694, 705.)


In this case, Amy by and through her Guardians ad Litem have not provided any expert testimony that either of the Defendant’s alleged negligence caused her death.  Therefore, Defendants’ nonsuit motion is granted as to the second cause of action.


Regarding the First and Third causes of action, “one of the essential elements of a cause of action for medical malpractice is ‘a proximate causal connection between the negligent conduct and the injury.’ [Citation.] ‘The law is well settled that in a personal injury action causation must be proven within a reasonable medical probability based upon competent expert testimony.  Mere possibility alone is insufficient to establish a prima facie case.’ ” (Lattimore v. Dickey (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 959, 971.)


“A possible cause only becomes ‘probable’ when, in the absence of other reasonable causal explanations, it becomes more likely than not that the injury was a result of its action.  This is the outer limit of inference upon which an issue may be submitted to the jury.”  (Bromme v. Pavitt (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 1487, 1498.)  In Bromme, the plaintiff had alleged that the defendant doctor had caused decedent’s death by failing to diagnose cancer.  (Id. at p. 1492.)  The Court held that causation was not established because the expert witnesses agreed that the decedent’s chance of surviving colon cancer was less than 50 percent.  (Id. at p. 1499.)


The testimony offered by Yuto on the standard of care came from Dr. Serden.  Dr. Serden’s ultimate criticism of Dr. Woodard was his failure to complete a proper evaluation of Landy Peraza which could have led to her receiving Betamethasone.  Dr. Gabriel then testified that, “if [Betamethasone] is given during labor, prior to delivery, it would have provided tremendous benefits to Yuto.”  Although he later testified that he would defer to an Obstetrician as to how much Betamethasone should be given or when it should be given, this testimony is sufficient evidence to defeat a motion for nonsuit.


Regarding Huntington Memorial Hospital, there was expert testimony that Nurse Alma Escusa fell below the standard of care by not advocating for her patient to receive the aforementioned steroid.  However, there was no testimony regarding any potential effect this advocacy would have achieved.  Therefore, Defendants motion of nonsuit is granted for Huntington Memorial Hospital as to the first cause of action.

The Court finds sufficient evidence exists to deny the motion of nonsuit as to the third cause of action as the evidence is sufficient to support Landy Peraza’s claim of damages for having been discharged from the hospital in contravention to the standard to care.




·         Motion of Nonsuit for the FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION is GRANTED as to Memorial Huntington Hospital and DENIED as to Dr. Woodard.


·         Motion for Nonsuit for the SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION is GRANTED as to both Defendants


·         Motion for Nonsuit for the THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION is DENIED as to both Defendants