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Vergara v. Doan

    Brief Fact Summary. The Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed the trial court’s judgment, which was a jury verdict in favor of Defendant. Plaintiffs brought an action against the Defendant for injuries sustained by their infant son. Plaintiffs alleged that their infant suffered severe and permanent injuries during delivery as a result of the Defendant’s negligence. Plaintiffs appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A physician must exercise that degree of care, skill, and proficiency exercised by reasonably careful, skillful, and prudent practitioners in the same class to which he belongs, acting under the same or similar circumstances.

    Facts. This was a case alleging medical malpractice, in which Plaintiffs contend that Defendant failed in his professional responsibility in performing a cesarean section Plaintiff’s infant son, Javier Vergara, suffered severe and permanent injuries as a result of the cesarean. Plaintiffs alleged that these injuries were the result of the Defendant’s negligence.

    Issue. Did the lower court properly instruct the jury regarding the standard to apply in evaluating Defendant’s professional conduct?

    Held. No. The Supreme Court of Indiana opted to adopt a more objective standard, which is articulated above.

    Dissent. The dissent objected to the standard outlined by the majority, because the ability of a physician in a rural community hospital may be vastly different than his or her ability in a large metropolitan hospital. The dissent contends that the majority position served to confuse, rather than clarify, the standard of care to which physicians were expected to adhere.

    Discussion. Prior to Vergara, Indiana employed a professional standard of care, “the modified locality rule,” which differentiated between the manners of treatment acceptable in different locales. In adopting the new standard, the Vergara court simply brought Indiana law in line with the more universal, objective standard employed by the majority of jurisdictions.


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