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Hospital Committee for the Livermore-Pleasanton Areas v. City of Oakland

August 24, 2009

THE HOSPITAL COMMITTEE FOR THE LIVERMORE-PLEASANTON AREAS, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
CITY OF OAKLAND, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Alameda County Super. Ct. No. VG 04155957). Trial Judge: The Honorable Lawrence John Appel.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marchiano, P. J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Defendant City of Oakland appeals from a judgment for plaintiff The Hospital Committee for the Livermore-Pleasanton Areas, doing business as ValleyCare Health System, after plaintiff‟s motion for summary judgment was granted. The judgment holds the City of Oakland liable for costs of medical care at plaintiff‟s hospital to an individual who temporarily had been incarcerated in the city jail for violations of probation and parole. We conclude that the County of Alameda, rather than the City of Oakland, was responsible for the medical costs. We therefore reverse the judgment and direct entry of judgment in the City of Oakland‟s favor.

I. BACKGROUND

Oakland Police Officer Samuel Francis arrested Kenneth Denham on May 22, 2003, the Thursday before the Memorial Day weekend, for possession of heroin (Health & Saf. Code, § 11350).*fn1 Denham was on probation and parole. At the time of the arrest, Francis spoke with Denham‟s California Department of Corrections parole officer, who placed a parole hold on Denham. Denham was transported to and booked into the Oakland City jail. On Friday, May 23, 2003, the Alameda County District Attorney‟s office filed a petition to revoke Denham‟s probation. The Health and Safety Code section 11350 charge was dropped, and the parole and probation violations became the sole grounds for Denham‟s incarceration.

While Denham was in the city jail, on Tuesday, May 27, 2003, the court summarily revoked Denham‟s probation and ordered that he be remanded without bail. Later that same day, Oakland Police Sergeants Christopher Del Rosario and Steve Walker transported Denham to the Alameda County jail at Santa Rita. Intake personnel at the county jail refused to receive Denham, saying that he was too ill. Del Rosario testified in his deposition that he and Walker were "directed or instructed" by county jail personnel to take Denham to plaintiff‟s hospital, ValleyCare Health System (ValleyCare), "which was across the freeway. We were told that‟s where they clear their prisoners. We were instructed to take him there, have him cleared and then bring him back."

The officers took Denham to ValleyCare. When it appeared that Denham would need to stay at the hospital, Del Rosario called the city jail commander, Lieutenant Andre Barnes, who instructed Del Rosario to "4011" Denham, "which means to release him on his own recognizance and leave him at the hospital. So we advised Mr. Denham that he was still under arrest, we gave him the 4011 paper and left." The "4011" document, executed by Denham and Del Rosario, and witnessed by Walker, stated: "Under the Provisions of Section 4011, 4011.5, 4011.7 . . . and 4011.9 of the Penal Code, State of California, you have been placed in [the Hospital] for necessary medical Treatment requiring hospitalization. At the conclusion of your Hospital Treatment you will be returned to the Oakland City Jail, pending final adjudication of your present case. . . .

[¶] Upon your discharge from the hospital, you must contact Oakland Police Department for transportation . . . ."*fn2

Denham remained at the hospital from May 27, 2003 until July 8, 2003, incurring $237,167.88 in medical costs.

Plaintiff sued defendant City of Oakland (the City) under sections 4011 and 4011.5, and Alameda County (the County) under Government Code section 29602, and sections 4011 and 4011.5, to recover the cost of Denham‟s hospitalization. The court granted the County‟s motion for summary adjudication of the cause of action under Government Code section 29602, sustained the County‟s demurrer to the cause of action under sections 4011 and 4011.5 without leave to amend, and entered judgment for the County in September 2006. The court overruled the City‟s demurrer, and denied the City‟s motion for summary judgment. The court granted plaintiff‟s motion for summary judgment against the City, and entered judgment against the City in June 2008 in the amount of $237,167.88, plus accruing interest at the legal rate.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Authority

The law in this area consists of a handful of statutes, court decisions, and Attorney General opinions. We survey the jurisprudence to understand the present controversy.

(1) Statutes

Sections 4011 and 4011.5 authorize removal of a prisoner from a city or county jail to a hospital for treatment. Section 4011, subdivision (a) provides for removal with a court order, and section 4011.5 for removal without court order when the prisoner is in need of immediate medical care. Section 4011.5 states that "[t]he provisions of Section 4011 governing the cost of medical and hospital care of prisoners and the liability therefor, shall apply to the cost of, and the liability for, medical or hospital care of prisoners removed from jail pursuant to this section."

Section 4011, subdivision (b) states in relevant part: "The cost of such medical services and such hospital care and treatment shall be charged against the county subject to subdivisions (c) and (d), in the case of a prisoner in or taken from the county jail, or against the city in the case of a prisoner in or taken from the city jail . . . . If the prisoner is in the county jail under contract with a city or under some other arrangement with the city to keep the city prisoner in the county jail, then the city shall be charged, subject to subdivisions (c) and (d), for the prisoner‟s care and maintenance . . . ." Section 4011, subdivision (d) addresses prisoners who are able to pay for their care. Section 4011, subdivision (c) states in relevant part: "When such prisoner is poor and indigent the cost of such medical services and such hospital care and treatment shall, in the case of persons removed from the city jail be paid out of the general fund of such city, and in the case of persons removed from the county jail to a hospital other than a county hospital, such cost shall be paid out of the general fund of such county or city and county. . . ."*fn3

Section 4015, subdivision (a) provides that a county sheriff "shall receive all persons committed to jail by competent authority." However, section 4015, subdivision (b) states that "[n]othing in this section shall be construed in a manner that would require the sheriff to receive a person who is in need of immediate medical care until the person has been transported to a hospital or medical facility so that his or her medical needs can be addressed prior to booking into county jail." Similarly, section 4015, subdivision (c) states that "[n]othing in this section shall be construed or interpreted in a manner that would impose upon a city or its law enforcement agency any obligation to pay the cost of medical services rendered to any individual in need of immediate medical care who has been arrested by city law enforcement personnel and transported to a hospital or medical facility prior to being delivered to and received at the county jail or other detention facility for booking."*fn4

Government Code section 29602 provides that "[t]he expenses necessarily incurred in the support of persons charged with or convicted of a crime and committed to the county jail . . . and for other services in relation to criminal proceedings for which no specific compensation is prescribed by law are county charges. However, nothing in this section shall preclude or prohibit the county from receiving reimbursement from a provider of medical insurance coverage for the provision of medical services to a prisoner or detainee received by or held in ...


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