Selvidge v. Tang

In November 2013, Vincent Selvidge died of a heart attack. His surviving wife and children (plaintiffs) sought to sue defendant, a physician who treated Selvidge, for medical malpractice. Plaintiffs filed their suit on January 28, 2015; 85 days after the one-year statute of limitations to bring a medical malpractice claim had expired. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that the suit was untimely. Plaintiffs claimed they were entitled to tolling of the limitation period for 90 days pursuant to section 364 because they provided notice to defendant on October 24, 2014, of their intention to sue him. By their reasoning, the statute of limitations did not expire until February 2, 2015, and their suit was timely. To prove they provided notice to defendant, plaintiffs submitted a declaration from the legal assistant to plaintiffs’ attorney, who mailed the notice of intent to a Southern California address listed for defendant on the medical board’s Web site. She also called the facility in Rancho Cordova where defendant had treated Selvidge and learned defendant was no longer an employee. Although the legal assistant declared that the notice was not returned as undelivered, she did not send the letter by certified mail or prepare a proof of service. Defendant claimed to have never received the notice of intent. The address he provided to the medical board, and to which the letter was mailed, was not defendant’s residence but an address he used for billing purposes. The address was owned by a business service company that received mail on behalf of defendant and his medical corporation, to which he was the sole employee. In October of 2014, defendant estimated he checked his mailbox at the address he provided to the medical board once or twice a month. The trial court granted defendant’s summary judgment motion, finding that because defendant did not have actual notice of plaintiffs’ intention to file an action against him, plaintiffs were required to comply with the mailing provisions found in Code Civ. Proc. section 1013(a). The issue this appeal presented for the Court of Appeal's review was whether mailing a notice of intent to file an action to a physician’s address of record with the Medical Board of California provided adequate notification of a potential medical malpractice suit under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. The Court held that it did, and accordingly reversed the trial court’s determination to the contrary. View "Selvidge v. Tang" on Justia Law