Thursday, September 10, 2020

Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur Reviewed by Pennsylvania Superior Court



In the case Lageman v. Zepp, No. 756 MDA 2018 (Pa. Super. July 20, 2020 Bowes, J., Olson, J., Stabile, J.) (Op. by Bowes, J.) (Dissenting Op. by Stabile, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the denial of the Plaintiff’s Post-Trial Motions following a defense verdict in a case involving claims of medical malpractice.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court found that the trial court erred in failing to charge the jury on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. The court found that, with the help of expert opinion, Plaintiff had established all three elements of res ipsa loquitur in connection with the Defendant’s performance of the medical procedure at issue. 

The Pennsylvania Superior Court emphasized that, while the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is usually associated with events that are within the common knowledge of laypersons and not requiring any expert testimony, the doctrine is not foreclosed where the Plaintiff also presents a medical expert offering evidence of other specific negligent conduct. 

This Opinion is also notable for the fact that the court ruled that a medical malpractice defendant is, for purposes of trial, is typically not to be considered an expert on his or her own behalf. 

The court additionally found that it was an abuse of discretion by the trial court to allow the Defendant doctor to demonstrate the procedure in question to the jury. The court noted that, if a demonstration was appropriate, it should have been done by the expert witness and not the party Defendant. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  Judge Stabile's Dissenting Opinion can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

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