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 malpractice.
  • 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.