Miller v. Jacoby

In Miller v. Jacoby (2001) 145 Wn.2d 65, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of two physicians who were sued for malpractice for leaving a Penrose drain in a patient after kidney surgery because the plaintiff had presented no expert medical opinion to refute that submitted by the physicians. One surgeon placed the drains and a different surgeon removed them. A court of appeal majority affirmed, concluding that " 'without expert testimony, a layperson could not determine whether the physicians failed to act in a reasonably prudent manner.' " (Id., 33 P.3d at p. 71.) The supreme court affirmed summary judgment as to the physician who placed the drain, stating: "Without knowing the professional standard of care for a health care provider placing a Penrose drain during surgery, a layperson would not be able to determine that Miller's injury would not have occurred absent negligence ... . For these reasons, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is not available to impose liability [on the physician inserting the drain]." (Id. at pp. 72-73.) With respect to the physician who removed the drain, the court reached a different conclusion, holding that a trier of fact should be permitted to use the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to determine whether negligence occurred. (Id. at p. 73.)