California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

514. Duty of Hospital

A hospital is negligent if it does not use reasonable care toward its patients. A hospital must provide procedures, policies, facilities, supplies, and qualified personnel reasonably necessary for the treatment of its patients.

[When you are deciding whether [name of defendant] was negligent, you must base your decision only on the testimony of the expert witnesses who have testified in this case.]

New September 2003

Directions for Use

This instruction may be augmented by CACI Nos. 515, Duty of Hospital to Provide Safe Environment, and/or 516, Duty of Hospital to Screen Medical Staff.

The second paragraph should be used unless 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.

This instruction is not intended if the hospital is being sued based on the negligence of an agent or employee. See instructions in the Vicarious Responsibility series and adapt accordingly.

Sources and Authority

  • “[T]he duty imposed by law on the hospital is that it must exercise such reasonable care toward a patient as his mental and physical condition, if known, require . . . .” (Vistica v. Presbyterian Hospital & Medical Center, Inc. (1967) 67 Cal.2d 465, 469 [62 Cal.Rptr. 577, 432 P.2d 193].)
  • “A private hospital owes its patients the duty of protection. It was the duty of the hospital to use reasonable care and diligence in safeguarding a patient committed to its charge [citations] and such care and diligence are measured by the capacity of the patient to care for himself. By reason of the tender age of appellant’s baby respondent owed a higher degree of care in attending it than if she had been an adult.” (Thomas v. Seaside Memorial Hospital (1947) 80 Cal.App.2d 841, 847 [183 P.2d 288].)
  • “It is the duty of any hospital that undertakes the treatment of an ill or wounded person to use reasonable care and diligence not only in operating upon and treating but also in safeguarding him, and such care and diligence is measured by the capacity of the patient to care for himself.” (Valentin v. La Societe Francaise de Bienfaisance Mutuelle (1946) 76 Cal.App.2d 1, 4 [172 P.2d 359].)
  • “[T]he professional duty of a hospital . . . is primarily to provide a safe environment within which diagnosis, treatment, and recovery can be carried out. Thus if an unsafe condition of the hospital’s premises causes injury to a patient . . . there is a breach of the hospital’s duty qua hospital.” (Murillo v. Good samaritan Hospital (1979) 99 Cal.App.3d 50, 56–57 [160 Cal.Rptr. 33].)
  • “Defendant . . . was under a duty to observe and know the condition of a patient. Its business is caring for ill persons, and its conduct must be in accordance with that of a person of ordinary prudence under the circumstances, a vital part of those circumstances being the illness of the patient and incidents thereof.” (Rice v. California Lutheran Hospital (1945) 27 Cal.2d 296, 302 [163 P.2d 860].)
  • “If a hospital is obliged to maintain its premises and its instrumentalities for the comfort of its patients with such care and diligence as will reasonably assure their safety, it should be equally bound to observe the progress of a patient in his recovery from a major operation with such care and diligence as his condition reasonably requires for his comfort and safety and promptly to employ such agencies as may reasonably appear necessary for the patient’s safety.” (Valentin, supra, 76 Cal.App.2d at p. 5.)
  • “No expert opinion is required to prove the hospital’s failure to provide an adequate number of trained, qualified personnel at the most critical time in postoperative care was negligent.” (Czubinsky v. Doctors Hospital (1983) 139 Cal.App.3d 361, 367 [188 Cal.Rptr. 685].)
  • “A California civil jury instruction succinctly characterizes a hospital’s duty to its patients as follows: ‘A hospital must provide procedures, policies, facilities, supplies, and qualified personnel reasonably necessary for the treatment of its patients.’ (CACI No. 514.) The instruction would appear to be an accurate distillation of the case law applicable when patients are being treated at a hospital facility for an illness, injury or medical condition.” (Walker v. Sonora Regional Medical Center (2012) 202 Cal.App.4th 948, 960 [135 Cal.Rptr.3d 876].)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 986–989

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) §§ 9.55–9.64

3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 31, Liability of Physicians and Other Medical Practitioners, § 31.81 (Matthew Bender)

25 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 295, Hospitals, § 295.13 (Matthew Bender)