CACI No. 502. Standard of Care for Medical Specialists

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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502.Standard of Care for Medical Specialists
[A/An] [insert type of medical specialist] is negligent if [he/she/nonbinary
pronoun] fails to use the level of skill, knowledge, and care in diagnosis
and treatment that other reasonably careful [insert type of medical
specialists] would use in similar circumstances. This level of skill,
knowledge, and care is sometimes referred to as “the standard of care.”
[You must determine the level of skill, knowledge, and care that other
reasonably careful [insert type of medical specialists] would use in similar
circumstances based only on the testimony of the expert witnesses
[including [name of defendant]] who have testified in this case.]
New September 2003; Revised October 2004
Directions for Use
This instruction is intended to apply to physicians, surgeons, and dentists who are
specialists in a particular practice area.
The second paragraph should be used except in cases where the court determines
that expert testimony is not necessary to establish the standard of care.
See CACI Nos. 219-221 on evaluating the credibility of expert witnesses.
Sources and Authority
“In those cases where a medical specialist is alleged to have acted negligently,
the ‘specialist must possess and use the learning, care and skill normally
possessed and exercised by practitioners of that specialty under the same or
similar circumstances.’ (Lattimore v. Dickey (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 959, 968
[191 Cal.Rptr.3d 766].)
“In the first place, the special obligation of the professional is exemplified by his
duty not merely to perform his work with ordinary care but to use the skill,
prudence, and diligence commonly exercised by practitioners of his profession.
If he further specializes within the profession, he must meet the standards of
knowledge and skill of such specialists.” (Neel v. Magana, Olney, Levy, Cathcart
& Gelfand (1971) 6 Cal.3d 176, 188 [98 Cal.Rptr. 837, 491 P.2d 421].)
“The difference between the duty owed by a specialist and that owed by a
general practitioner lies not in the degree of care required but in the amount of
skill required.” (Valentine v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals (1961) 194 Cal.App.2d
282, 294 [15 Cal.Rptr. 26] (disapproved on other grounds by Siverson v. Weber
(1962) 57 Cal.2d 834, 839 [22 Cal.Rptr. 337, 372 P.2d 97]).)
“The role of the psychiatrist, who is indeed a practitioner of medicine, and that
of the psychologist who performs an allied function, are like that of the
physician who must conform to the standards of the profession and who must
often make diagnoses and predictions based upon such evaluations. Thus the
judgment of the therapist in diagnosing emotional disorders and in predicting
whether a patient presents a serious danger of violence is comparable to the
judgment which doctors and professionals must regularly render under accepted
rules of responsibility.” (Tarasoff v. Regents of Univ. of Cal. (1976) 17 Cal.3d
425, 438 [131 Cal.Rptr. 14, 551 P.2d 334].)
“[A] psychotherapist or other mental health care provider has a duty to use a
reasonable degree of skill, knowledge and care in treating a patient,
commensurate with that possessed and exercised by others practicing within that
specialty in the professional community.” (Kockelman v. Segal (1998) 61
Cal.App.4th 491, 505 [71 Cal.Rptr.2d 552].)
“[T]he standard of care for physicians is the reasonable degree of skill,
knowledge and care ordinarily possessed and exercised by members of the
medical profession under similar circumstances. The test for determining
familiarity with the standard of care is knowledge of similar conditions.
Geographical location may be a factor considered in making that determination,
but, by itself, does not provide a practical basis for measuring similar
circumstances. Over 30 years ago, our Supreme Court observed that ‘[t]he
unmistakable general trend . . . has been toward liberalizing the rules relating to
the testimonial qualifications of medical experts.’ (Avivi v. Centro Medico
Urgente Medical Center (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 463, 470-471 [71 Cal.Rptr.3d
707], original italics, internal citations omitted.)
Secondary Sources
California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) § 9.2
3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 30, General Principles of Liability of
Professionals, § 30.12, Ch. 31, Liability of Physicians and Other Medical
Practitioners, § 31.85 (Matthew Bender)
36 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 415, Physicians: Medical
Malpractice, § 415.11 (Matthew Bender)
17 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 175, Physicians and Surgeons: Medical
Malpractice, § 175.20 et seq. (Matthew Bender)

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