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Walters v. Hitchcock

Kansas Supreme Court
697 P.2d 847 (1985)


In 1979, a lump was discovered on the neck of Lillian Walters (plaintiff) by her family physician. At the time, Walters was 32-years-old, not employed, and married with four minor children. Thereafter, Walters was seen by surgeon, Dr. C. Thomas Hitchcock (defendant), who recommended a surgical removal of the diseased areas of Walters’ thyroid gland. Hitchcock informed Walters that the procedure was low risk with an anticipated three-day hospital stay afterwards. Following the procedure, Walters’ condition rapidly deteriorated: her head swelled, she lost her vision, and she suffered extreme respiratory distress. Walters was taken to the intensive care unit where a breathing tube was inserted. Hitchcock was notified by the hospital’s pathology department that a piece of Walters’ esophagus was connected to the thyroid specimen he had sent to the lab during her surgery. Subsequently, Hitchcock reopened Walters’ wound and observed a significant hole in her esophagus that was not repairable. Hitchcock permanently closed Walters’ esophagus. Walters brought a medical malpractice action against Hitchcock and sought $4 million in damages. A jury awarded Walters $2 million in damages, and Hitchcock appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (McFarland, J.)

Dissent (Schroeder, C.J.)

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