California Code of Civil Procedure § 597.5

In an action against a physician or surgeon, dentist, registered nurse, dispensing optician, optometrist, registered physical therapist, podiatrist, licensed psychologist, osteopathic physician and surgeon, chiropractor, clinical laboratory bioanalyst, clinical laboratory technologist, veterinarian, or a licensed hospital as the employer of any such person, based upon the person's alleged professional negligence, or for rendering professional services without consent, or for error or omission in the person's practice, if the answer pleads that the action is barred by the statute of limitations, and if any party so moves or the court upon its own motion requires, the issues raised thereby must be tried separately and before any other issues in the case are tried.  If the issue raised by the statute of limitations is finally determined in favor of the plaintiff, the remaining issues shall then be tried.

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