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Morohoshi v. Pacific Home

Supreme Court of California

November 15, 2004, Filed

S120903

Opinion

 [***891]   [**434]  BROWN, J.CA(1)(1) Under the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act (Lanterman Act; Welf. & Inst. Code, § 4500 et seq. 1), care for the developmentally disabled is provided by private contractors operating, among other services, residential care facilities. The coordination of the delivery of such direct services is the responsibility of “private nonprofit community agencies” called “regional centers.” (§ 4620, subd. (b).) This case involves the tragic death of a developmentally disabled individual resulting from the negligence of the staff of the residential care facility in which he had been placed by a regional center. Two questions are presented. (1) May the regional center be held vicariously liable for the negligence of the residential care facility? The Court of Appeal, in the second of its two opinions in this case, answered this question in the affirmative; we disagree. (2) Did the Court of Appeal's previous decision resolve the vicarious liability question, and is that decision controlling in this appeal under the law of the [****3]  case doctrine? We conclude the Court of Appeal's previous decision did not resolve the vicarious liability question and, thus, is not controlling.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Bobby Morohoshi, plaintiffs' adult son, was developmentally disabled; he was also an insulin-dependent diabetic. In 1995, Harbor Regional Center (Harbor) placed Bobby in Pacific Home, a residential care facility; Bobby resided there until his death in 1998.

 [***892]  Harbor arranged for nurses to visit Bobby twice a day to test his blood sugar and administer his insulin. Pacific Home's owner and her sister, who were registered nurses, originally performed this function. Later, this function was performed by home health nurses and other members of Pacific Home's staff.

In 1998, Pacific Home hired new staff, including Esther Sison. Sison was responsible for testing Bobby's blood-sugar level the night before he died. She failed to do so. The [****4]  next morning Bobby lay dead in his bedroom.

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34 Cal. 4th 482 *; 100 P.3d 433 **; 20 Cal. Rptr. 3d 890 ***; 2004 Cal. LEXIS 10639 ****; 2004 Daily Journal DAR 13813; 2004 Cal. Daily Op. Service 10165

YOSHI MOROHOSHI et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. PACIFIC HOME et al., Defendants and Respondents.

Prior History:  [****1]  Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. NC025395. Judith A. Vander Lans, Judge. Court of Appeal, Second Dist., Div. Seven, No. B159594.

Morohoshi v. Pacific Home, 112 Cal. App. 4th 937, 5 Cal. Rptr. 3d 512, 2003 Cal. App. LEXIS 1573 (Cal. App. 2d Dist., 2003)

Disposition: Judgment reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

CORE TERMS

regional, developmentally, disabled, vicariously, monitoring, coordinating, consumer, vendorization, nondelegable, staff

Healthcare Law, Medical Treatment, Incompetent, Mentally Disabled & Minors, General Overview, Public Health & Welfare Law, Services for Disabled & Elderly Persons, Care Facilities, Community Residence, Torts, Vicarious Liability, Agency Relationships, Negligence, Healthcare, Civil Procedure, Judgments, Preclusion of Judgments, Law of the Case