Sunday, February 3, 2013

Vergara v. Doan case brief

Vergara v. Doan case summary
593 N.E.2d 185 (Ind. 1992)

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Plaintiff parents of an injured infant (parents) brought an action against defendant doctor, alleging that their infant suffered severe and permanent injuries during delivery as a result of the doctor's negligence. The Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed the trial court's judgment, which reflected a jury verdict in favor of the doctor, and the parents appealed.

-Javier Vergara was born on May 31, 1979, at the Adams Memorial Hospital in Decatur, Indiana.
-His parents, Jose and Concepcion, claimed that negligence on the part of Dr. John Doan during Javier's delivery caused him severe and permanent injuries.
-A jury returned a verdict for Dr. Doan and the plaintiffs appealed
-On appeal, the parents argued that the reasons for Indiana's modified locality rule, which provided that the standard of care in medical malpractice cases was that degree of care, skill, and proficiency which was commonly exercised by ordinarily careful, skillful, and prudent physicians at the time of the operation and in similar localities, were no longer applicable and that they were entitled to a new trial because the jury instructions overemphasized the same or similar locality.

The supreme court, adopting a new standard of care, held that (1) the physician was required to exercise that degree of care, skill, and proficiency exercised by reasonably careful, skillful, and prudent practitioners in the same class to which he belonged, acting under the same or similar circumstances, (2) under the new standard of care, locality was only a factor that should have been considered, and (3) the trial court's instruction was harmless error where it referred to a national standard of care, the parents were permitted to present their expert witness as to the national standard of care, and an instruction without the locality language would not have lead a new jury to a different conclusion.

RULES:-In Indiana, a physician must exercise that degree of care, skill, and proficiency exercised by reasonably careful, skillful, and prudent practitioners in the same class to which he belongs, acting under the same or similar circumstances.
-Rather than focusing on different standards for different communities, this standard uses locality as but one of the factors to be considered in determining whether the doctor acted reasonably. Other relevant considerations would include advances in the profession, availability of facilities, and whether the doctor is a specialist or general practitioner.

CONCLUSION: The supreme court adopted a new standard of care but affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that the trial court's instruction concerning the old standard of care would not have changed the verdict and was, therefore, harmless error.

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