Jarcia vs People (GR No. 187926 February 15, 2012)

Jarcia vs People of the Philippines
GR No. 187926 February 15, 2012

Facts: Belinda Santiago lodged a complaint with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against the petitioners, Dr. Emanuel Jarcia and Dr. Marilou Bastan, for their alleged neglect of professional duty which caused her son, Roy Alfonso Santiago, to suffer physical injuries. Upon investigation, the NBI found that Roy Jr. was hit by a taxicab; that he was rushed to the Manila Doctors Hospital for an emergency medical treatment; that an X-ray of the victim’s ankle was ordered; that the X-ray result showed no fracture as read by Dr. Jarcia; that Dr. Bastan entered the emergency room and, after conducting her own examination of the victim, informed Mrs. Santiago that since it was only the ankle that was hit there was no need to examine the upper leg; that 11 days later, Roy developed fever, swelling of the right leg and misalignment of the right foot; that Mrs. Santiago brought him back to the hospital; and that the x-ray revealed a right mid-tibial fracture and a linear hairline fracture in the shaft of the bone. A complaint for reckless imprudence resulting physical injuries was filed against the petitioners for the alleged misconduct in the handling of the illness of Roy.

Issue: Whether or not the petitioners failed to exercise the degree of care expected of them as doctors and are liable for negligence to the private respondent.

Held: Yes. The doctrine of res ipsa liquitor as a rule of evidence is unusual to the law of negligence which recognizes that prima facie negligencce may be established without direct proof and furnishes a substitute for specific proof of negligence.  The doctrine however, is not a rule of substantive law, but merely a mode of proof or a mere procedural convenience the rule when applicable to the facts and circumstances of a given case, is not meant to and does not dispense with the requirement of proof of culpable negligence on the party charged. It merely determines and regulates what shall be prima facie evidence thereof and helps the plaintiff in proving a breach of duty. The doctrine can be invoked when and only when, under the circumstances involved, direct evidence is absolute and not readily available.

The requisites for the application of the doctrine of res ipsa liquitor are:

  1. The accident was of a kind which does not ordinarily occur unless someone is negligent;
  2. The instrumentality or agency which caused the injury was under the exclusive control of the person in charge; and
  3. The injury suffered must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution of the person injured.

Negligence is defined as the failure to observe for the protection of the interests of another person that degree of care, precaution and vigilance which the circumstances justly demand whereby such other person suffers injury.

Reckless imprudence consists of voluntarily doing or failing to do, without malice, an act from which material damage results by reason of an inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act.

In failing to perform an extensive medical examination to determine the extent of Roy’s injuries, Dr. Jarcia and Dr. Bastan were remiss of their duties as members of the medical profession. Assuming for the sake of argument that they did not have the capacity to make such thorough evaluation at that stage they should have referred the patient to another doctor with sufficient training and experience instead of assuring him and his mother that everything was all right.

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