Monday, November 11, 2013

States v. Lourdes Hospital case brief

States v. Lourdes Hospital case brief summary
792 N.E.2d 151 (2003)

Plaintiff patient sued defendants, an anesthesiologist and his practice group, for medical malpractice, alleging that they injured her right arm during her operation to remove an ovarian cyst. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The patient opposed the motion, relying on expert testimony to establish res ipsa loquitur. The trial court denied the motion, but the Appellate Division (New York) reversed that decision. The patient appealed.


When a tube was inserted into the patient's right hand for anesthesia, she felt pain, and when she awoke from surgery, she complained of increasing pain in her right arm and shoulder. The patient was later diagnosed with right thoracic outlet syndrome and reflex sympathetic dystrophy. In seeking summary judgment, defendants alleged that there was no direct evidence to support the patient's theory that her arm was negligently hyperabducted for an extended time during the surgery, causing her injury. The patient offered expert medical opinion that her injury would not have occurred in the absence of negligence, which was the first element of res ipsa loquitur, a doctrine that allowed negligence to be inferred. The appellate division agreed with defendants that expert testimony was not allowed because res ipsaloquitur required a jury to draw on its common knowledge.

  • The court of appeals disagreed. 
  • Expert testimony was allowed in medical malpractice cases to aid a jury regarding the first res ipsa loquitur element by providing it with information within the common knowledge of physicians. 
  • Thus, the expert testimony was admissible and the trial court properly denied summary judgment.

The court of appeals reversed the appellate division's order, with costs, and denied defendants' motion for summary judgment.

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