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Walski v. Tiesenga

Supreme Court of Illinois
381 N.E.2d 279 (1978)



Walski (plaintiff) underwent a thyroidectomy performed by Dr. Tiesenga (defendant). One risk of a thyroidectomy is loss of voice, caused by damage to the laryngeal nerves. To combat this, some doctors locate these nerves before the operation. Tiesenga declined to follow this route, as Walski’s earlier operations made locating the nerves dangerous. Instead, Tiesenga predicted where the nerves would be, and made a cut hoping to avoid the nerves. This cut damaged the nerves and caused Walski injury. Walski brought a medical malpractice claim against Tiesenga, and offered expert testimony to establish a standard of care for the thyroidectomy. Walski’s expert testified that, although every surgeon has different methods, his preferred custom in a thyroidectomy would be to first locate the laryngeal nerves before cutting. Tiesenga testified that identifying the nerves is a customary practice; however, this procedure would have been unwise in Walski’s case. The trial court granted a directed verdict in favor of Tiesenga, which the appellate court affirmed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Kluczynski, J.)

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