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Pennsylvania Medical Negligence Law – Clear Cases of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice and medical negligence cases in Pennsylvania are some of the most difficult cases to litigate, especially medical misdiagnosis cases. For example, proving that an emergency room doctor misdiagnosed a stroke or heart attack typically requires proving that the doctor failed to take some action that’s required under the applicable standard of care, like ordering a specific diagnostic test. The negligent conduct in most medical malpractice cases is arguable, boiling down to a matter of degrees.
In Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff can present multiple theories of negligence, including a typical medical negligence claim, as well as a less typical res ipsa loquitor claim, which means “the thing speaks for itself.” This type of claim would be appropriate where a hospital or doctor’s negligent conduct is arguably clear.
The res ipsa loquitor doctrine is a common sense approach to negligence–where the cause of the injury is essentially a no-brainer, like operating on the wrong body part or patient, or leaving surgical instruments or products behind.
Under Pennsylvania law, the plaintiff does not have to prove the specific negligent conduct where:
- the injury/accident does not ordinarily occur without negligence, and
- other causes, like the plaintiff’s own conduct or conduct of other parties, are eliminated.
In Pennsylvania, the res ipsa loquitor doctrine was first allowed in medical malpractice lawsuits in 1981. Since then, appellate courts have decided only a handful of cases on the availability of the doctrine in medical malpractice cases involving surgeries, including:
- thyroid surgery where the vocal cord/nerve was irreparably injured
- gynecological surgeries where the patient sustained serious neurological injury in her arm/shoulder due to improper positioning during the procedures
- a quadriplegic patient fell from a bed after a surgery and later died
More recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reaffirmed the use of the doctrine in medical negligence cases. In December 2021, the court held that injured patients may present two theories of medical negligence, including a theory based on the res ispa loquitor doctrine. See Lagemen v. Zepp et al.
There, the patient alleged that she suffered a serious stroke during a bowel/hernia surgery due to the anesthesiologist’s improper placement of a needle in the carotid artery. The trial court did not allow the jury to hear a jury instruction on the res ipsa loquitor doctrine. After the jury found in favor of the doctor, the PA Superior Court reversed, finding that the jury should have been instructed on the res ipsa loquitor doctrine. The PA Supreme Court ultimately agreed.
Although the Lageman decision won’t apply in most medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania, it can give patients a better shot at success.
Medical Malpractice Law Firm in Pennsylvania
Morris Wilson Knepp Jacquette has been handling medical malpractice cases for decades. We’ve fought some of the largest hospitals in the area and won. Contact our law firm for a free consultation. (610) 825-0500
We Accept Medical Malpractice Cases Against Hospitals in the Philadelphia Area
Cases Also Accepted Across Pennsylvania
Chestnut Hill Hospital
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Roxborough Memorial Hospital
Temple University Hospital
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Crozer-Chester Medical Center (Upland)
Delaware County Memorial Hospital (Drexel Hill, Upper Darby)
Springfield Hospital (Springfield)
Taylor Hospital (Ridley)
Abington Hospital (Abington, Lansdale)
Bryn Mawr Hospital (Bryn Mawr)
Einstein Medical (East Norriton, Elkins Park)
Holy Redeemer Hospital (Meadowbrook)
Lankenau Hospital (Wynnewood)
Suburban Community Hospital (Norristown)
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Phila., West Chester, East Norriton, Meadowbrook, Doylestown, Langhorne, Sellersville, etc.)
St. Christopher's Hospital for Children
Shriner's Hospitals for Children
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