Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Sponge Left in the Gut Implicates Res Ipsa Loquitur Doctrine

In Fessenden v. Robert Packer Hospital, 2014 Pa. Super. 154 (July 23, 2014 Wecht, J.,  Lazarus, J., Musmanno, J.)(Op. by Wecht, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed a trial court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the defense in a medical malpractice case. 

This case involved the surgeon team allegedly leaving an item inside the patient's body after a surgery.  This situation allegedly caused the Plaintiff to have to undergo two additional surgeries to clean up the issues created by the sponge.
Opinion by
Superior Court Judge David N. Wecht

The Superior Court reiterated the rule of law that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is available in medical malpractice claims involving items accidentally left inside a patient’s body after the completion of a surgery. 

The Court noted that the basic question in these types of cases was whether a particular defendant is the responsible cause of the injury.  The record before the court revealed no possibility of any third-party negligence.  More specifically, the Plaintiff had no other surgeries around the time in question.

In reversing the entry of summary judgment, the Superior Court noted that leaving a sponge behind is the prototypical example for the proper application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in the medical malpractice context.

To read this Opinion online, please click HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney James Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.  I invite you to check out Attorney Beck's excellent and nationally renowned blog, the Drug and Device Law Blog, by clicking HERE.

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