There is a legal term in the civil law called res ips loquitor. The phrase is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.” Essentially, the term refers to situations where something happens that essentially only happens because of someone’s negligence. It is more than just a way to categorize cases, however. When applied to certain cases it has very real consequences on what a plaintiff has to prove in order for the jury to find liability. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers appreciate that, while rare, there may be certain situations where the doctrine applies in medical malpractice cases.
Res Ipsa Loquitor
Medical malpractice is essentially just like all “negligence” cases where a plaintiff must prove four things: (1) The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty; (2) That duty was breached; (3) The breach caused; (4) harm. The first element is rarely at issue, because doctors always owe a duty to their patient. However, sometimes the second element can be tricky, particularly in situations where there is poor documentation, uncooperative parties, or otherwise a lack of information to understand exactly how something happened.
Fortunately, when the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor applies, the first two elements-duty and breach-are automatically inferred. The plaintiff does not have to prove them to be successful. The idea is that there are some situations that could only happen when another party is negligent and breaches the standard of care. The Illinois medical malpractice lawyers at our firm appreciate that in medical settings the “scalpel in the body” cases often implicate res ipsa. In other words, situations where it is patently obvious that there was negligence often invoke the doctrine so long at the defendant was “in exclusive control” of the “instrumentality of the harm” and the plaintiff did not contribute to the injury.
A New Case
For example, WKYT reported this week on a new medical malpractice lawsuit filed against a dentist by a former patient. The suit claims that the dentist was negligent because a dental tool was found lodged in the woman’s digestive system. The story includes disturbing x-ray images clearly showing the tool inside the woman’s body.
According to documents filed in the suit, the woman went to the doctor to have work done on her dentures. However, while performing the work the doctor allegedly lost control of a screwdriver-like device, allowing it to fall down the woman’s throat.
For his part the doctor claims that the tool described in the lawsuit is incorrect and that he advised the woman to go to an emergency room immediately after the incident. The defendant also claims that he did not lose control of the device. However, there is no explanation in the news story about how else the tool could have ended up in the woman’s abdomen but for some sort of error on the doctor’s part. There are very few ways that a tool could end up in the woman’s abdomen except if the doctor made some sort of mistake. The woman in the cases is asking for compensation for medical bill, pain and suffering.
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