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Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider fails to provide an acceptable standard of care, resulting in harm to a patient. Medical malpractice cases can be complex and difficult to navigate, so it’s important to understand the key components of a successful medical malpractice suit. In this article, we’ll explore the various elements of medical malpractice cases, including common examples and what to expect during the legal process.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice generally refers to a situation where a healthcare provider, such as a doctor, nurse, or hospital staff, fails to provide a patient with an acceptable standard of care. This can result in injuries, illnesses, or even death. Medical malpractice can occur in a variety of ways, including misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medication errors, or mistakes during childbirth.

Elements of Medical Malpractice Cases

To prove medical malpractice in a legal case, the plaintiff must prove several elements. These elements include:

1. Duty of Care: The healthcare provider owed the patient a duty of care, meaning they were responsible for providing a reasonable standard of care.

2. Breach of Duty: The healthcare provider breached their duty of care by failing to provide the appropriate standard of care.

3. Causation: The healthcare provider’s breach of duty caused the patient’s injuries or harm.

4. Damages: The patient experienced damages, such as physical harm or financial loss, as a result of the healthcare provider’s breach of duty.

Common Examples of Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice can occur in many ways, but some of the most common examples include:

– Misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis
– Surgical or anesthesia errors
– Medication errors including prescribing incorrect medicine, incorrect dosages
– Birth injuries to mother or child including cerebral palsy, Erb’s Palsy and dystocia
– Failure to properly manage treatment and follow-up care

Legal Process for Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases can be complex and challenging to navigate, but generally follow a similar legal process. This process includes:

1. Investigation: The plaintiff’s attorney investigates the potential medical malpractice case to determine if there is a viable claim.

2. Filing the Lawsuit: If the attorney determines there is a case, they will file a lawsuit against the healthcare provider or hospital.

3. Discovery Phase: Both sides exchange relevant information about the case, including medical records and expert opinions.

4. Mediation or Negotiation: Parties may try to resolve the case before going to trial, through mediation or negotiation.

5. Trial: If a settlement is not reached, the case will go to trial where a jury will hear the case and determine if medical malpractice occurred.


Medical malpractice cases require a thorough understanding of the law and the unique challenges of healthcare. If you’ve experienced medical malpractice, it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney who can help navigate the legal process and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. By understanding the key elements of medical malpractice cases and the legal process, you can make informed decisions about pursuing legal action.


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.



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.


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.