Walski v. Tiesenga
72 Ill.2d 249, 21 Ill.Dec. 201, 381 N.E.2d 279 (1978)

  • Dr. Tiesenga operated on Walkski’s thyroid. Because of scarring from previous surgeries, Tiesenga couldn’t see what was going on and accidentally cut a nerve resulting in Walski losing her voice. She sued.
    • This is a risk in all thyroid surgeries, but the risk can be minimized by using care.
    • At trial, expert witnesses testified that there are different techniques for how to perform the operation, and doctors are split on which is the best method.
  • Walski sued Tiesenga for medical malpractice.
  • The Trial Court found for Tiesenga. Walski appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed. Walski appealed.
  • The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The Illinois Supreme Court found that in a medical malpractice, lawsuit:
      • First, the plaintiff must establish the standard of care through expert witnesses.
      • Then, the plaintiff must prove that the doctor was unskillful or negligent in light of this standard of care. Again, generally though expert witnesses.
    • The Court found that Walski had failed to establish what the appropriate standard of care for a thyroid operation was. Therefore, she loses.
      • You can’t just present testimony that another doctor would have acted differently, since medicine is never an exact science.