The Law School Authority

Helling v. Carey Case Brief

Summary of Helling v. Carey, 83 Wash. 2d 514, 519 P.2d 981 (1974)

Facts: Plaintiff had serious loss of her vision due to the disease of glaucoma.  P got her eyes checked form D, an ophthalmologist, on regular basis.  P sued D for his negligence to not give her a pressure test in time to discover and cure this disease.  D argues that it is a standard of his profession to not have routine pressure tests done on patients who are under the age of 40 because the chances of this disease appearing in patients under 40 is 1 in 25,000.

Procedure: The jury ruled for D.  The Ct. of Appeals affirmed.

Issue: Was D negligent in not giving the pressure test to P even though it was not a custom in his profession?

Holding: Yes

Rationale: The administration of the pressure test is quite inexpensive and safe. So in this case B<PL.  Furthermore, even if the chances of a person under 40 to get this disease was 1 in 25,000, a reasonable prudence should have convinced D to give pressure tests even if this was not the standard of his profession.  “The precaution of giving this test to detect the incidence of glaucoma to patients under 40 years of age is so imperative that irrespective of  its disregard by the standards of the ophthalmology profession, it is duty of the courts to say what is required to protect patients under 40 from the damaging results of glaucoma.”

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