Mrs. Santiago lodged a complaint with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against the petitioners, for their alleged neglect of professional duty which caused her sonto suffer serious physical injuries. Upon investigation, the NBI found that her son was hit by a taxicab and was rushed to the hospital for an emergency medical treatment. An x-ray of the victim’s ankle was ordered and showed no fracture. Mrs. Santiago was informed that since it was only the ankle that was hit, there was no need to examine the upper leg; . However, eleven (11) days later, Roy Jr. developed fever, swelling of the right leg and misalignment of the right foot, thus Mrs. Santiago brought him back to the hospital and that the X-ray revealed a right mid-tibial fracture and a linear hairline fracture in the shaft of the bone.
The NBI indorsed the matter to the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila for preliminary investigation. Probable cause was found and a criminal case for reckless imprudence resulting to serious physical injuries, was filed against the doctors before the RTC.
The RTC found the petitioners guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Simple Imprudence Resulting to Serious Physical Injuries.Dissatisfied, the petitioners appealed to the CA in which the letter affirmed the RTC decision in toto. In deciding, the appellate court consider the applicability of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. Res ipsa loquitur is a Latin phrase which literally means “the thing or the transaction speaks for itself.In order to have the benefit of the rule, a plaintiff, in addition to proving injury or damage, must show a situation where it is applicable and must establish that the essential elements of the doctrine were present in a particular incident.
The appellate Court further held that “res ipsa loquitur” is not a rigid or ordinary doctrine to be perfunctorily used but a rule to be cautiously applied, depending upon the circumstances of each case. It is generally restricted to situations in malpractice cases where a layman is able to say, as a matter of common knowledge and observation, that the consequences of professional care were not as such as would ordinarily have followed if due care had been exercised. A distinction must be made between the failure to secure results and the occurrence of something more unusual and not ordinarily found if the service or treatment rendered followed the usual procedure of those skilled in that particular practice. The latter circumstance is the primordial issue that confronted the appellate Court and and find the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to be in order.
The petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied by the CA. Hence, this petition.
Whether or not the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is applicable in this case.
No. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur means “Where the thing which causes injury is shown to be under the management of the defendant, and the accident is such as in the ordinary course of things does not happen if those who have the management use proper care, it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of an explanation by the defendant, that the accident arose from want of care.”
The requisites for the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur are:
1. the accident was of a kind which does not ordinarily occur unless someone is negligent;
2. the instrumentality or agency which caused the injury was under the exclusive control of the person in charge; and
3. the injury suffered must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution of the person injured.
In this case, the circumstances that caused patien’s injury and the series of tests that were supposed to be undergone by him to determine the extent of the injury suffered were not under the exclusive control of the petitioners. It was established that they are mere residents of the hospital at that time who attended to the victim at the emergency room. While it may be true that the circumstances pointed out by the courts below seem doubtless to constitute reckless imprudence on the part of the petitioners, this conclusion is still best achieved, not through the scholarly assumptions of a layman like the patient’s mother, but by the unquestionable knowledge of expert witness/es.
Further, the Court held that Res ipsa loquitur is a rule of evidence whereby negligence of the alleged wrongdoer may be inferred from the mere fact that the accident happened provided the character of the accident and circumstances attending it lead reasonably to belief that in the absence of negligence it would not have occurred and that thing which caused injury is shown to have been under the management and control of the alleged wrongdoer. Under this doctrine, the happening of an injury permits an inference of negligence where plaintiff produces substantial evidence that the injury was caused by an agency or instrumentality under the exclusive control and management of defendant, and that the occurrence was such that in the ordinary course of things would not happen if reasonable care had been used and that as a rule of evidence the doctrine is unusual to the law of negligence which recognizes that prima facie negligence may be established without direct proof and furnishes a substitute for specific proof of negligence. The doctrine, however, is not a rule of substantive law, but merely a mode of proof or a mere procedural convenience. The rule, when applicable to the facts and circumstances of a given case, is not meant to and does not dispense with the requirement of proof of culpable negligence on the party charged. It merely determines and regulates what shall be prima facie evidence thereof and helps the plaintiff in proving a breach of the duty. The doctrine can be invoked when and only when, under the circumstances involved, direct evidence is absent and not readily available.
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