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Jones v. Porretta

405 N.W.2d 863 (1987)

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Jones v. Porretta

Michigan Supreme Court

405 N.W.2d 863 (1987)

Facts

During surgery for bleeding ulcers, a complication required removing the gallbladder of Mr. Dziurlikowski, doubling the surgery’s length from two hours to four hours. After the surgery, Dziurlikowski developed brachial plexus palsy and trouble moving his right arm. Dziurlikowski sued the anesthesiology team (defendants) under res ipsa loquitur. Dziurlikowski claimed the anesthesiology team failed to follow proper procedures in either properly positioning his arm on the operating table or noticing that his arm had been moved during the surgery. However, there was no testimony that Dziurlikowski’s arm had been moved or hyperextended. Dziurlikowski claimed that but for negligence, his complication was not one that ordinarily occurs after surgery. Because Dziurlikowski’s claim was not in the general knowledge of the layperson, his expert witness, Dr. Mervin Jeffries, substantiated his claim, which the anesthesiology team disputed. The anesthesiology team argued that it was not negligent, and that brachial plexus palsy was a rare and unfortunate but occasionally unavoidable consequence of extended anesthesia. The trial court gave a disputed jury instruction that doctors and surgeons are not guarantors of results and that an adverse result is not evidence of negligence. The court additionally instructed that the jury may not arrive at a verdict by guessing, conjecture, or speculation. The jury returned a verdict for the anesthesiology team. Dziurlikowski moved for a new trial, claiming that the jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial. The trial court denied the motion. Dziurlikowski appealed. The court of appeals held that the instruction on guess, conjecture, or speculation was not inappropriate if considered in its entirety. However, the court of appeals held that the guarantor instruction was erroneous, and it reversed under the presumptively prejudicial rule. The anesthesiology team appealed the reversal.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Boyle, J.)

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