CASE DIGEST: Solidum vs. People

G.R. No. 192123 : March 10, 2014




On June 2, 1992, Gerald Albert Gercayo (Gerald) was born with an imperforate anus. Hence, two days after his birth, he underwentcolostomy which enabled him to excrete through a colostomy bag attached to the side of his body.

Three years later or on May 17, 1995, he was admitted at the Ospital ng Maynila for a pull-through operation. The surgical team consisted of Dr. Resurreccion, Dr. Luceo, Dr. Valea, and Dr. Tibio. The anesthesiologists included Dr. Abella, Dr. Razon and herein Petitioner Dr. Solidum. It was during the said operation that Gerald experienced bradycardia or an abnormally slow heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute. He subsequently went into a coma which lasted for two weeks. When he regained consciousness after a month, he could no longer see, hear, or move. Ma. Luz Gercayo (Luz) lodged a complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries against the attending physicians.

The RTC found Dr. Solidum guilty beyond reasonable doubt of reckless imprudence resulting to serious physical injuries. The CA affirmed the conviction of Dr. Solidum.

ISSUES: Whether or not the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies in this case? Whether the CA correctly affirmed the conviction of Dr. Solidum for criminal negligence?

HELD: The Court of Appeals decision is overruled.

TORTS: applicability of the Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur

The Court held that the application the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in the case at bar is inappropriate. Res ipsa loquitur is literally translated as he thing or the transaction speaks for itself.Jarcia, Jr. v. People, G.R. No. 187926 laid down that, here the thing which causes injury is shown to be under the management of the defendant, and the accident is such as in the ordinary course of things does not happen if those who have the management use proper care, it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of an explanation by the defendant, that the accident arose from want of care.Hence, the requisites for the doctrine to apply are as follows: (1) the accident was of the kind that does not ordinarily occur unless someone is negligent; (2) the instrumentality or agency that caused the injury was under the exclusive control of the person charged; and (3) the injury suffered must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution of the person injured.

Elements 2 and 3 were present in the case at bar. However, the first element was undeniably wanting.

TORTS: elements of medical negligence

The Prosecution failed to prove the existence of the elements of reckless imprudence beyond reasonable doubt. Gaid v. People, G.R. No. 171636 defined negligence as the failure to observe for the protection of the interests of another person that degree of care, precaution, and vigilance that the circumstances justly demand, whereby such other person suffers injury.

The following are the elements of medical negligence: (1) the duty owed by the physician to the patient, as created by the physician-patient relationship, to act in accordance with the specific norms or standards established by his profession; (2) the breach of the duty by the physician failing to act in accordance with the applicable standard of care; (3) the causation, i.e., there must be a reasonably close and causal connection between the negligent act or omission and the resulting injury; and (4) the damages suffered by the patient.

Most medical malpractice cases are highly technical, therefore, witnesses with special medical qualifications must impart the knowledge necessary to render a fair and just verdict. In the case at bar, there were no witnesses with special medical qualifications in anesthesia presented. Hence, it is difficult to assess whether the first three elements of medical negligence were present.

CRIMINAL LAW: subsidiary liability pursuant to Article 103 of the Revised Penal Code

Ospital ng Maynila could not be held civilly liable because it was not a party to the case. To hold it so would be to deny it due process of law. Furthermore, before it can be held subsidiary liable, the conditions therefor must first be established:(1) it must be a corporation engaged in any kind of industry; (2) defendant must be shown to be an employee of the corporation engaged in industry for profit; and (3) defendant must be insolvent.

Applying the conditions in the case at bar, Ospital ng Maynila cannot be held subsidiary liable because: (1) Ospital ng Maynila, being a public hospital, was not engaged in industry conducted for profit but purely in charitable and humanitarian work; (2) Dr. Solidumwas not an employee of Ospital ng Maynila but a consultant; and (3) Dr. Solidum was not insolvent.