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Franklin v. Gupta

567 A.2d 524 (1990)

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Franklin v. Gupta

Maryland Court of Special Appeals

567 A.2d 524 (1990)


Sylvester Franklin (plaintiff) was scheduled to have Dr. Shanker Gupta (defendant) perform carpal tunnel surgery on his wrist. Before the surgery, anesthesiologist Dr. Herbert Lee (defendant) evaluated Franklin’s several existing health issues and decided that a local anesthetic that blocked feeling in just Franklin’s arm was a safer choice than general anesthesia. Lee was double booked during Franklin’s surgery time, so Lee asked Gary Sergott (defendant), a certified, registered nurse-anesthesiologist, to handle Franklin. Although Lee said nothing about Franklin to Sergott, Sergott also decided, on his own, that blocking feeling in Franklin’s arm was the best choice. However, the block did not work completely. Gupta told Sergott to give Franklin general anesthesia instead. Concerned that general anesthesia was not safe for Franklin, Sergott left to find Lee and get his opinion. Lee agreed that another attempt at a local block was a safer choice. However, while Sergott was absent, Franklin had breathing and heart issues that required life-saving intervention. Franklin lived, but the surgery was canceled. Franklin filed a medical-malpractice lawsuit, arguing that the anesthesia issues had worsened his existing medical problems and permanently injured him. At trial, Franklin did not present any evidence showing that Gupta himself had done anything wrong or that Gupta had supervised or controlled either Lee or Sergott. Instead, Franklin asked the court for a jury instruction sometimes known as a captain-of-the-ship instruction. This instruction said that Gupta, as the surgeon, was responsible for everyone’s actions in the operating room and automatically liable if anyone had been negligent. The trial court did not give the instruction. The jury found that Lee, Sergott, and the hospital were liable for medical malpractice, but that Gupta was not. The trial court then ordered a new trial. Franklin appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Wilner, J.)

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