What is the Statute of Limitations for the Medical Board of California to File Against a Physician?
The 3 Year / 7 Year Statute of Limitations
The Medical Board of California does not have an unlimited license to delay. There is a 7 year maximum, 3 years from notice statute of limitations on medical board actions against doctors. This is established by Business and Professions Code section 2230.5. This means it has to be within 3 years unless the Board did not know about it. Then they have 7 years to discover the wrongdoing.
The statute is a “whichever comes first” rule so that the prime defense to an action filed outside the 3 year period is that the Board knew OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN about the conduct within 3 years of when it took place. Only then does the 7 year limit kick in.
What Does "Should have Known" Mean?
There are no appellate cases published as of 1/17/2024 that address how “should have known” applies to Section 2230.5.
However there is a great deal of discussion of this same topic in other contexts. Here is an example of a leading case discussing the delayed discovery standard. In Monarch v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co. (1999) 70 Cal.App.4th 1197, 1203, 83 Cal.Rptr.2d 247 the court reviewed the delayed discovery rule for the start of a statute of limitations and called it an objective test. So objectively did the plaintiff (which in the medical board context means the MBC) know or should have known, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, the essential facts of both the injury and its cause.
Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against A Physician
We have seen very old cases brought against Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump and many others. These same types of extensions apply to physicians sexual misconduct cases.
The area of sexual misconduct particularly relating to minor’s is the only (present) source of exceptions or extensions to this rule. Here are the sections of the statute that expand these time periods. Here are the extension provisions of 2230.5.
(d) If an alleged act or omission involves a minor, the seven-year limitations period provided for by subdivision (a) and the 10-year limitations period provided for by subdivision (e) shall be tolled until the minor reaches the age of majority.
(e) An accusation filed against a licensee pursuant to Section 11503 of the Government Code alleging sexual misconduct shall be filed within three years after the board, or a division thereof, discovers the act or omission alleged as the ground for disciplinary action, or within 10 years after the act or omission alleged as the ground for disciplinary action occurs, whichever occurs first. This subdivision shall apply to a complaint alleging sexual misconduct received by the board on and after January 1, 2002.
Many of the Board’s sexual assault Accusation filings are triggered by a civil lawsuit filed by the person making the claims. If you are a physician sued for sexual misconduct you can expect a medical board inquiry.
Fraudulent Information to Obtain a Medical License
Finally, if you got your license fraudulently and the board pursues you under “Section 11503 of the Government Code alleging the procurement of a license by fraud or misrepresentation”, that “is not subject to the limitation provided for by subdivision (a).” However, the concept of “fraud” under 11503 vs. mistake is a thorny legal issue and one that can be beneficial to someone seeking to protect their license. We have seen this issue arise in the context of foreign medical credentials as well as non-disclosure of relevant (negative) information. Is it fraud? Mistake? Disagreement as to what should have been disclosed?
Our law office defends doctors in all licensing matters.