Wilson v. Medical Associates Ltd. and Dunn JM 2009 SC 59
Name of Case: Wilson v. Medical Associates Ltd. and Dunn JM 2009 SC 59
Type of Medical negligence: mental disability of minor
Date of Judgment: June 18, 2009
Judge Presiding: King J
The claimant, Stephen Wilson, then five years old, underwent surgery at the Medical Associates Hospital which was operated by the first defendant. The second defendant, Dr. Brendan Dunn, was the anesthetist in attendance at the surgery.
On completion of the surgical operation which was a circumcision, the claimant went into cardiac arrest resulting in severe brain damage. At the date of the trial Stephen was twenty-four years old and there has been no significant improvement in his condition since the incident. He is mentally retarded, is unable to walk or use his arms, has no control over his bowel actions and can speak no more than two or three words.
This action was brought by the claimant through his mother Dahlia Wilson as his guardian and next friend claiming damages for:
(i) breach of an implied warranty that the application of the general and local anesthetics were safe and harmless to him, or alternatively;
(ii) for negligence for a breach of a duty owed to him to ensure that the application of the said anesthetics was safe and harmless.
The court held that the claimant could not use the res ipsa loquitor doctrine as their sole evidential basis. The correct exposition of the doctrine is that it is not a principle of law; it does not relate to or raise any presumption. It is merely a guide to help to identify when a prima facie case is being made out. In the event, that expert and factual evidence has been called on both sides at the trial its usefulness will normally have long since been exhausted.
The court found that the injuries suffered by the claimant and the circumstances under which they occurred required an adequate response from the defendants if they were to avoid a finding against them on the claim in negligence. Having carefully considered all the evidence in this case the court found on a balance of probabilities that the cause of the claimant’s injury was neither the general anesthetic administered to him nor any negligence in the method of its administration. On the evidence before the court the most probable cause of the claimant’s injury was the effect of the local anesthetic, Lignocaine.
Ultimately, It was impossible for the court to determine on the evidence available to it whether the injury resulted from an allergic reaction to the Lignocaine or from an accidental injection of the drug into the superficial or deep dorsal vein of the penis.
Judgment was found in favor of the defendants.