Weinstein v. St. Mary’s Medical Center
68 Cal.Rptr.2d 461 (Ct.App.1997).

Facts:

  • Weinstein hurt her foot while working at the hospital and started receiving worker’s compensation benefits.
  • A few months later, while at the hospital for an MRI on the foot, Weinstein slipped on puddle in the hallway, aggravating the injury and resulting in chronic pain.
  • She then filed a personal injury complaint based on premises liability.
  • The hospital argued that her exclusive remedy was worker’s compensation.
  • Weinstein, in response, argued the “Dual Capacity” doctrine.

History:
The trial court granted the hospital’s motion for summary judgment.

Issue:
Whether the Hospital met its burden of establishing that when Weinstein returned for treatment, she went in her capacity as an employee.

Holding:
No. Case reversed.

Reasoning:

  • Dual capacity is legal shorthand for describing a situation in which a party has a duty of care that arises independently of any employment relationship.
    • For example, an employer has a duty to its employees as a result of the employment relationship (e.g., providing a safe place of employment). However, it also has a common law duty of care, such as those of a medical care provider to a patient, or of a business or property owner to an invitee.
  • The nature of an employer’s duty in a given situation depends on the circumstances of the parties’ relationship at the time of the incident.
    • Just because a person is an employee clearly does not mean he or she is acting as an employee under all circumstances.
  • Here, there was no evidence suggesting that any of Weinstein’s actions during her visit to the Hospital on that date were within the course and scope of her employment with the Hospital, that she was performing any service growing out of or incidental to her employment, or that she was even working at all.
    • Thus, the hospital was sued in its capacity as a healthcare provider and not an employer.

Rule: Where an employer simply accepts the employee as a patient and provides medical treatment separate from any of the conditions, obligations or benefits of employment, it acts in a different capacity toward the employee than that of employer.