RES IPSA LOQUITOR; WHAT IS THIS?
Res Ipsa Loquitor is a legal doctrine that essentially means, "The thing speaks for itself." As discussed in the section for negligence cases, res ipsa loquitor is often asserted in negligence actions when there is no other way that the injury could have occurred unless it was caused by the defendant's negligence.
This is often the case in medical malpractice suits because of a number of reasons which include the medical professional's expertise in dealing with the matter; the availability and awareness of the patients previous medical history including allergies, prior treatment, etc; and often the sedation of the patient at the time that the medical malpractice occurs. Although these examples are inclusive they are not exclusive and there are other factors. Due to the fact that it is more probable than not that the medical professional is in full control of the instrumentalities of a medical procedure the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor is often used by the plaintiff in these medical negligence cases. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer to acquire legal advice and assistance.
YBARRA V. SPANGARD
A perfect example of the liability of medical professionals can be shown in the case of Ybarra v. Spangard, 25 Cal.2d 486, 154 P.2d 687 (Cal.1944). In this action the Ybarra, plaintiff, was injured when he went in for a routine appendectomy and came out of surgery with a sharp pain in his neck and shoulder that eventually led to paralysis. The plaintiff sued based on res ipsa loquitor and the trial court granted a non-suit. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal the defendant's, the physicians and nurses, claimed that it was impossible to determine who was actually at fault in the matter because they were all working as a team on the surgery and one sole tortfeasor could not be pinpointed. In finding for the plaintiff the court asserted that res ipsa loquitor does not require that one individual be at fault. The court claimed that the issue was whether the defendant had the right of control and not necessarily actual control. It was concluded that while undergoing a medical operation all parties involved, and in control over the patient may be held liable.
Thinking about it in a logical way the court reached a common sense conclusion that if there can be no liability if there is more than one tortfeasor then it would be in the best interests of those medical professionals involved to deny wrongdoing so as to escape liability.
WHY IS THIS CASE IMPORTANT?
This case is important in that it shows the "cut and dry" mentality that is taken by the legal system when confronted with medical negligence cases. If you go into surgery for one thing and come out in a worse condition then you entered then there is a presumption that it is the fault of those medical professionals who acted upon your person. This, however, is only a presumption and it is still the duty of the plaintiff to prove every element of the case.