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  Ybarra v. Spangard

 ([Supreme Court Of California], [1944]).

Chapter 4: [Negligence]                                                                                                                                

[Page: 250] Action:  [Proof Of Negligence]         

    • Topic:  [Multiple parties with different functions]


  Whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies for injuries that involve multiple defendants and relationships?



  Pl took action again the Df for the alleged damages that took place during the course of a surgical operation.

  When the Pl woke up after surgery, he felt a sharp pain about half way between the neck and his right shoulder.

  The condition grew worse rendering him unable to lift his arm, developing paralysis an atrophy of the muscles around the shoulder.

  The distinct injury was to a healthy part of the body that was not in scope of the treatment.


Pl Seek:

  Ybarra is seeking damages for injuries that occurred while he was unconscious during surgery.

Pl  Arg

  He never had any pain or injury to his right arm or shoulder prior to the operation.

  The foregoing evidence presents a proper case for the application of the doctrine of RIL, and that the inference of negligence arising therefrom makes the granting of a nonsuit improper.


Df Arg

1.      Pl did not show injury was caused by an instrumentality under the Df - care.

2.      Pl did not show which servant caused the injury.

3.      Which servant had exclusive control over the particular instrumentality.

4.      The Df asserts some of the servants were not employees of the Df.

5.      The number of Df - and different functions performed by each, could not all be liable.



  Trail Court entered nonsuit.  Pl and Df - appealed.  Reversed.  Second trial found against all of them b/c the individual testimony of all the Df - did not overcome the inference of negligence.




  The condition cannot be due to the Pl - voluntary action.

  The accident must be one that does not ordinarily occur UNLESS some one was negligence.


  All persons exercising control over instrumentalities over a person are liable for any unnecessary harm that results.



  Every Df in who was in custody of the Pl for any period was bound to exercise ordinary care to see that no unnecessary harm came to him and each would be liable for failure in this regard.

  The Df employer would be liable for neglect of their employees, and the doctor would be liable the negligence of his temporary servers.

  It is possible that one or more Df - will be found liable and others absolved.

  It is manifestly unreasonable for the unconscious Pl for purposes of surgery, to identify who did the alleged act.  The control of instrumentalities which might have harmed the Pl was in the hands of every Df or his employees or temporary servants.

  The number of those in whose care the patient is placed is not a good reason for denying reasonable opportunity to recover for negligent harm.  (Good reason to re-examine legal theories with shocking results)


  Where a Pl receives unusual injuries while unconscious and in the course of medical treatment, all those Df - who had any control over his body or the instrumentalities which might have caused the injuries may properly be called upon to meet the inference of negligence by giving an explanation of their conduct.



o         NONE


PUBLIC Policy:

o         If the contention of the Df - is accepted there will rarely be any compensation for partys injury while unconscious.


Book Notes


  1. .
  2. .
  3. 9 mothers cook turkey salad which cause food poisoning.
  4. Collision between vehicles.  RIL usually does not apply to either driver.  When 3rd party bystander is on the sidewalk and gets hit, usually RIL does not apply.
  5. Common Carriers.  When a carrier is involved in a accident RIL can be used against him, but not a driver, b/c the carrier is held to the highest degree of care, it is more probable that the collision was due to some negligence on the part of the carrier than the other driver.



Class Notes