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McGee v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co.

    Brief Fact Summary. A doctor conducted a surgical procedure on a patient's hand and the doctor botched the procedure.  After the patient settled with the doctor, the doctor sued his malpractice insurance carrier for not covering his liability.  

    Facts. A doctor, Edward McGee ("Dr. McGee"), promised to restore George Hawkins' ("Mr. Hawkins"), hand to perfect condition.  Mr. Hawkins' hand was only slightly scarred. Dr. McGee claimed to have done a number of skin grafts during the war in Germany, but later admitted he only observed them.  Dr. McGee operated on the hand in March of 1922 and complications persisted for several days.  Mr. Hawkins was "in the throes of death" for a long time after the surgery due to bleeding and an infection.  Mr. Hawkins brought an action against Dr. McGhee and was awarded $3000 as damages by the jury and $1400 in attorney's fees.  Mr. Hawkins' crippled hand affected "his employment and outlook through his lifetime."  After the juries award, Dr. McGee settled for $1400.  Dr. McGee sued his malpractice insurance carrier on the ground that "the verdict had been for breach of a contract to achieve a promised result and not for the tort of malpractice." 

    Discussion. This case shows that a doctor can be liable in contract if a promised result is not obtained.


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