Ybarra was in the hospital for an appendectomy performed
by Spangard. After the operation, Ybarra woke up with pain in his arm, which implied that somehow during the operation someone did something to him while he was unconscious to sprain his arm. He sued Ybarra and
the other doctors and nurses for medical malpractice.
The Trial Court found for Spangard. Ybarra appealed.
The Trial Court found that there was no evidence of negligence,
nor that the injury was attributable to any particular person or
Spangard argued that Ybarra was in the care of numerous
people and instrumentalities while unconscious, so there was no way to
blame any one person without direct evidence.
The Trial Court rejected Ybarra's argument of res ipsa
The Appellate Court reversed.
The Appellate Court found that where a plaintiff receives
unusual injuries while unconscious and in the course of medical
treatment, all those defendants who had any control over his body or the
instrumentalities which might have caused the injuries may be properly
called upon to meet the inference of negligence by giving an explanation
of their conduct.
The Court found that since Ybarra was
unconscious during the operation, it was unreasonable to ask him to show
a specific act of negligence. As long as he could show that some
external force caused his injury, he qualifies for res ipsa loquitur.
The Court found that, although there were
numerous persons and instrumentalities involved in the treatment of
Ybarra, all were in the control of the same group of doctors. Which
specific act caused the injury doesn't matter, since all the
instrumentalities were in Spangard's control.
Spangard unsuccessfully argued that since not all of the
people in the room worked directly for the hospital, no one person/company
ever had exclusive control, which is a requirement for res
However, the Court felt that the persons in charge are
responsible for everyone working for them, its one big team.
In general, Courts have rejected a strict requirement for exclusive
control when pleading res ipsa loquitur in medical
malpractice. The only requirement is that the injury cannot be
reasonably attributed to a pre-existing condition or other frailty in the