- The Kerala High Court has held that the principle of 'res ipsa loquitor' will apply in a case of medical negligence if a patient suffers a complication which is not contemplated normally.
- The High Court was dealing with a case of a 29 year old man who became a paraplegic and lost his sound after undergoing a surgery for removal of kidney stones.
- The case in reference is PRS Hospital and another vs. Anil Kumar (RFA 131/2020).
- The bench consisted of Justices SV Bhatti and BechuKurain Thomas.
- The appearances for the appellants was Advocate C R Syamkumar and for the respondent it was Advocate Anoop Bhaskar.
MEANING OF THE TERM 'RES IPSA LOQUITER'
- 'Res Ipsa Loquitor' (the thing speaks for itself) is a rule of presumption applied in cases to presume negligence when certain attendant circumstances are proved.
- Res ipsa loquitur is a Latin phrase that means "the thing speaks for itself." In personal injury law, the concept of res ipsa loquitur (or just "res ipsa" for short) operates as an evidentiary rule that allows plaintiffs to establish a rebuttable presumption of negligence on the part of the defendant through the use of circumstantial evidence.
- This means that while plaintiffs typically have to prove that the defendant acted with a negligent state of mind, through res ipsa loquitur, if the plaintiff puts forth certain circumstantial facts, it becomes the defendant's burden to prove he or she was not negligent.
In a suit filed by the patient seeking damages against the hospital and the doctor, the Sub Court Thiruvananthapuram found that his situationwas caused due to medical negligence and the plaintiff was awarded compensation to the extent of Rs.20,40,000/-with an interest at 6% per annum from the date of suit till realization, along with costs.
CChallenging the decree, the hospital and the doctor filed regular first appeal before the High Court. The appellants had put forward in the court of law that the challenge wasonly confined to the findings of negligence against them and that they were not challenging the compensation.
- The precedent in the Supreme Court decision in V.Kishan Rao v. Nikhil Super Speciality Hospital and Another[(2010) 5 SCC 513] was referred to by the bench in this regard.
- The Court noted that within 30 minutes of commencement of the surgery,the operation was halted and the plaintiff was brought out of the theatre with oxygen support and catheter inserted.He was only able to move out of the hospital after three months of his treatment, that too with the help of support.It was not in dispute that the plaintiff has become crippled for life and his condition is referred to in medical terms as postrio paresis.
- The High Court rejected the argument that the plaintiff had not pleaded material averments to establish negligence.The Court observed that as a lay person who was administered general anaesthesia during the operation, the plaintiff cannot be expected to be aware ofwhat happened during the surgical procedure.
- The Court noted that the appellants had not examined many witnesses who had direct knowledge of the what happened during the procedure.
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