Ybarra v. Spangard Case Brief

Summary of Ybarra v. Spangard, S. Ct. California, 1944

Relevant Facts: Pl consulted Df who diagnosed his ailment as appendicitits and made perparations for surgery. Pl entered the hospital was given a hypodermic slept, and was later awakened. He was wheeled into the operating room where he was adjusted by his body being pulled to the head of the table. His back was laid against two hard objects at the top of his shoulders, about an inch from his neck. Prior to the operation he never had any pain in his arm or shoulder, but when he awoke he felt a sharp pain in his neck near the shoulder. He was unable to rotate or lift his arm.

Legal Issue(s): Whether, when a PL receives unusual injuries while unconscious during medical treatment, all Df and instrumentalities who had control over his body might have caused his injuries are liable for prima facie negligence?

Court’s Holding: yes

Procedure: Nonsuit dismissing Pl action, Pl appeals. Reversed.

Law or Rule(s): The thing speaks for itself. Proof that the instrument causing the injury was under the exclusive control of the df and the injury does not ordinarily happen unless negligent.

All persons and instrumentalities exercising control over a person are liable for any unnecessary harm that results.

Court Rationale: Every Df who had control over the Pl’s body for any period was bound to exercise ordinary care to see that no unnecessary harm came to him, and each would be liable for failure in this regard. The injury was distinctly a part of his body not subject for treatment, nor within the area covered by the operation. Unless the Drs and nurses in attendance voluntarily chose to disclose the identity of the negligent person liability would be impossible to determine, and absolute liability would be the result, irrespective of negligence.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The area around the operation was not near the injury, while unconscious PL should have received reasonable care to insure he did not receive unnecessary harm.

Defendant’s Argument: Assuming PL condition was in fact the result of an injury, there is no showing that the act of any particular Df , or instrumentality was the cause.

Non suit – failure to prove a case.

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