The Law School Authority

Nowatske v. Osterloh Case Brief

Summary of Nowatske v. Osterloh (1996) Pg. 409, 198 Wis. 2d 419, 543 N.W.2d 265 (1996)

Parties: Appellant – Plaintiff – Nowatske

Appellee – Defendant – Osterloh

Court: Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1996

Facts: Plaintiff had blurred vision in his right eye. He went to the defendant, a retina specialist, who diagnosed the Plaintiff with a detached retina. Prior to surgery, Plaintiff signed a consent form which explained the risks involved in the treatment. Defendant conducted a post-op visit to check the retina. There is debate about whether or not the Defendant checked the internal pressure in the eye. Plaintiff had swelling in the eye but it eventually subsided. At next doctor’s visit, Defendant told Plaintiff that he would be permanently blind in the right eye.

Procedural Posture: TC – jury found the Defendant did not negligently cause the Plaintiff’s injuries. TC dismissed the case.

Issue: Should the standard of care used by an eye surgeon be held to the standard of care usually exercised by the average physician practicing within the same specialty as long as it does not pertain to ordinary custom of the profession, but to higher degree by practicing reasonable care which means staying on top of medical knowledge?

Judgment: Affirmed MC’s and TC’s decision that jury instructions were valid, doctor was not negligent, and remand case back to MC for further proceedings.

Holding: Jury instructions did stay with the issue of proper medical care practiced using reasonable care and not held to a level that is just customary of like doctors in the same specialty field.

Relevant Rule: Professional prudence (professional standard of care) is defined by actual or accepted practice within a profession, rather that theories about what “should” have been done, and it means that reasonable care requires that the practioner is one who keeps up with advances in medical knowledge.

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