States v. Lourdes Hospital
100 N.Y.2d 208, 792 N.E.2d 151, 762 N.Y.S.2d 1 (2003)
States went to Lourdes Hospital for an operation. Although
the operation was successful, she ended up with an arm injury, which she
argued was caused by misplacement of the IV. She sued for medical
The Trial Court found for States. Lourdes appealed.
At the close of discovery, Lourdes argued that no direct
evidence of negligence was shown.
However, States' cited a medical opinion that there was
no way she could have received that injury in the absence of negligence,
aka res ipsa loquitur.
The Appellate Court reversed. States appealed
The Appellate Court found that res ipsa loquitur
can only be used when the jury can draw upon their common knowledge and
experience to conclude that the injury could not have occurred in the
absence of negligence. Since the jurors were not medical professionals,
it couldn't possibly be obvious to them that negligence occurred.
The New York Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court.
The New York Supreme Court found that expert testimony
may be properly used to help the jury bridge the gap between its own
common knowledge and the experience necessary to reach a conclusion that
the occurrence would not have occurred in the absence of negligence.
It is within the common knowledge of physicians, even if
it isn't within the common knowledge of the average American.