Res Ipsa in Medical Malpractice Case in Missouri: A New Rule

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Sides v. St. Anthony’s Medical Center, that plaintiffs in a medical malpractice cases in Missouri may rely on an expert’s opinion that the injury would not have happened in the absence of the defendants’ negligence even without a specific proof of a negligent act. The court adopted the Restatement of Torts rule that if a medical malpractice plaintiff cannot demonstrate which specific act of negligence caused the injury but is able to demonstrate the potential causes are within the control of the doctor, and the injury would not occur in the absence of negligence, then a medical malpractice plaintiff has jumped over the motion to dismiss/summary judgment hurdle.

The defendant’s medical malpractice lawyer argued that Hasemeier v. Smith, 361 S.W.2d 697 (Mo. banc 1962), an OB/GYN medical malpractice case, was controlling. In that case, the court found that generally res ipsa loquitur is not applicable in medical malpractice cases. The Missouri Supreme Court did not overrule Hasemeier but it may as well have.

The Missouri high court’s ruling in this case is consistent with common sense and, as the court noted, the trend in many other states including Kentucky, Nebraska and New York.