CACI 502 Standard of Care for Medical Specialists

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

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.]

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)