The Pennsylvania Supreme Court then proceeded to launch into an eloquent, insightful, and somewhat passionate commentary regarding the profession of medicine and the ongoing challenges faced by physicians in their day-to-day practices. The legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, res ipsa for short, allows a judge or jury to presume negligence on the part of the defendant without proving it. There, a young man named Houser was walking over a footpath and was struck and badly injured by railroad cross-ties that suddenly fell from a passing train. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court then proceeded to launch into an eloquent, insightful, and somewhat passionate commentary regarding the profession of medicine and the ongoing challenges faced by physicians in their day-to-day practices. Based on the totality of the evidence presented, we find that infection is an outcome that can occur subsequent to a myelogram without any negligence. The naked fact that the eye was in such a bad condition that it had to be extracted established neither neglect nor unskillfulness of the treatment. Much discretion exists in a doctor's practice of medicine that should not be condemned in hindsight. Over the next 20 years, appeals courts in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and California affirmed the doctrine of res ipsa in other cases involving personal injury. Get Book. Many legal observers claim that there is an inherent unfairness in the res ipsa doctrine. In other words, the burden of proof that is borne by the plaintiff in the traditional medical malpractice lawsuit is shifted to the defendant–physician in a res ipsa lawsuit. This has been such a work in progress and I'm only like 50% of the way done with it! Courts across the nation have had to grapple with the question of whether to permit expert medical testimony to be used to educate the jury as to the likelihood that a medical adverse event would take place without negligence. However, not-withstanding its repeated use, the true meaning and effect of its application are obscure. Eleven years later, on the American side of the Atlantic, the Court of Appeals of New York adjudicated a lawsuit with similar issues. What does “Res Ipsa Loquitur” mean? Initially most states held that res ipsa would be applicable in malpractice cases only when the common knowledge of laymen is sufficiently extensive to allow them to conclude that the plaintiff's condition would not have existed but for the negligence of the physician, a classic example of which would be a case in which a surgical sponge was retained postoperatively. Although the great majority of appeals court decisions throughout the nation affirm the applicability of the res ipsa doctrine in medical malpractice lawsuits with or without medical expert witness testimony, a recent in-depth analytic decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court raised substantial doubts about the widespread use of the doctrine in medical malpractice litigation. The Iowa appeals court reversed the lower court's decision, ruling that res ipsa was applicable because it was a matter of common knowledge that such complications do not ordinarily occur when physicians using ordinary skill treat fractures. Ms. Ewing filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Goode under the res ipsa theory, and the case proceeded to a jury trial conducted by Judge Taft. The plaintiff in a res ipsa case is required to allege several elements. Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks. Res ipsa loquitur is a Latin phrase meaning "the thing speaks for itself." Venous injury and cerebral edema in cranial surgery. It does not follow that because the logs fell off the car, they were negligently put on. Free Consultation - 24/7. For example, in a Kentucky case in which a dentist who had extracted a tooth failed to take an x-ray that would have revealed that part of the tooth had not been removed, the court permitted the application of res ipsa because that particular method of diagnosis had become a matter of common knowledge . The question of whether multiple defendants can be held liable in a res ipsa case has been answered in the affirmative by the Supreme Court of California in a case in which a patient underwent an appendectomy while under general anesthesia. The condition of the plaintiff cannot but awaken the sympathy of everyone, but I must hold that there is no evidence before the court legally sufficient to support a verdict in her favor. The article referred to one judge's observations : Regardless of the merits of the plaintiff's case, physicians who are members of medical societies flock to the defense of their fellow members charged with malpractice and the plaintiff is relegated for his expert testimony to the occasional lone wolf or heroic soul, who for the sake of truth and justice has the courage to run the risk of ostracism by his fellow practitioners and the cancelation of his professional liability insurance policy. I think it apparent that the barrel was in the custody of the defendant who occupied the premises and who is responsible for the act of his servants who had the control of it. One more aspect regarding expert testimony in res ipsa cases should be pointed out. The entire procedure was uneventful. The tension between those two propositions is obvious. The court of appeals affirmed the judge's instructions : If a person erects a building upon a city street, he is under a legal obligation to take reasonable care that it shall not fall into the street and injure persons lawfully there. Therefore, it was essential to the plaintiff's claim to introduce expert testimony. After completion of the depositions of both expert witnesses, the defendant–radiologist, and other individuals who were involved with the myelogram CT procedure, the defense attorney moved for dismissal of the lawsuit, asserting that the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to support the res ipsa theory. Notwithstanding the court's official majority ruling, however, the following dissenting opinion is noteworthy : We dissent. The condition of the plaintiff cannot but awaken the sympathy of everyone, but I must hold that there is no evidence before the court legally sufficient to support a verdict in her favor. 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