A man underwent an eight-hour surgery to remove a facial tumor on the left side of his face. After the surgery, his right hand swelled, and he was diagnosed with right hand compartment syndrome which required an additional surgery.
The man sued two doctors for medical malpractice. The complaint contended that the man suffered the injury to his right hand because of the manner in which he was positioned on the operating table during the eight hour surgery. The complaint asserted that the res ipsa loquitor doctrine applied because the alleged negligence involved the use of a mechanical instrument, namely the operating table.
During their depositions, both doctors described how medical personnel pad and position patients on the operating table for surgery. They described the roll test that was administered once the patient was padded and positioned to make sure the patient will not move during surgery. They also described the manner in which an operating table rotates during a surgical procedure.
The doctors filed motions for summary judgment. The doctors argued that the res ipsa loquitor doctrine did not apply because this was a medical malpractice case alleging negligence in the use of a mechanical instrument, an operating table, when the use of the mechanical instrument was not a matter within the common knowledge of lay persons.
The 150th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas, granted the motions for summary judgment on the ground that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor was inapplicable to the underlying cause.
The Court of Appeals of Texas, San Antonio, affirmed. The court held that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor was inapplicable in the context of an injury from positioning on an operating table.
The doctrine of res ipsa loquitor was inapplicable in the context of an injury from positioning on an operating table. The court assumed without deciding that an operating table was considered a mechanical instrument. The court found that neither the manner in which an operating table rotates during a surgical procedure nor the proper manner for padding and positioning a patient on an operating table was within the common knowledge of lay persons. Accordingly, the court concluded that the the trial court did not err in concluding the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor was not applicable in the underlying cause.
The Court of Appeals of Texas, San Antonio, affirmed the trial court’s grant of the doctors’ motions for summary judgment.
See: Peterson v. Jimenez, 2016 WL 3440461 (Tex.App.-San Antonio, June 22, 2016) (not designated for publication).