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The maxim res ipsa loquitur- Patient admitted in hospital while strolling in the Hosptial received major injuries by fall – Hospital trust is liable to pay compensation due to inadequacy of vigilance on the principles of IPSA LOQUITUR – suit decreed for 7 lakhs – appeal and cross appeal – appeal was dismissed cross appeal for enhancement was allowed to 11 lakhs – second appeal and cross appeal – Apex court held that as the trial court and appellant court not accepted the plea of defendant that the plaintiff himself voluntarily jumped through the Window on sound discussion and upheld the application of IPSA LOQUITUR = ASHISH KUMAR MAZUMDAR … APPELLANT (S) VERSUS AISHI RAM BATRA CHARITABLE HOSPITAL TRUST & ORS. … RESPONDENT (S) = 2014 ( April.Part ) judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41442

The maxim res ipsa loquitur- Patient admitted in hospital while strolling in the Hosptial received major injuries by fall – Hospital trust is liable to pay compensation due to inadequacy of vigilance on the principles of IPSA LOQUITUR – suit decreed for 7 lakhs – appeal and cross appeal – appeal was dismissed cross appeal for enhancement was allowed to 11 lakhs – second appeal and cross appeal – Apex court held that as the trial court and appellant court not accepted the plea of defendant that the plaintiff himself voluntarily jumped through the Window on sound discussion and upheld the application of IPSA LOQUITUR  =

 

Suit No. 3413 of 1991 filed by one Ashish Kumar Mazumdar  (hereinafter

referred to as ‘the plaintiff’) was decreed by a  learned  Single  Judge  of

the High Court of Delhi awarding a sum of Rs. 7 lakhs with  interest  @  12%

per annum on account of damages  for  injuries  suffered  by  the  plaintiff

while undergoing treatment in the  Batra  Hospital,  Delhi.

The Division Bench of  the

High Court by a common order dated 23.12.2009 dismissed the appeal filed  by

the defendant trust and allowed the appeal filed by the plaintiff  enhancing

the amount of damages awarded from Rs. 7 lakhs to  Rs.  11  lakhs  alongwith

interest @ 12% per annum.  Not satisfied,  the  plaintiff  has  filed  Civil

Appeal No.4010 of 2010, whereas aggrieved by the dismissal  of  its  appeal,

the defendant trust has filed the connected appeals (Civil Appeal Nos. 4011-

4012 of 2010).

The learned Trial Judge came to the conclusion that, having regard  to

the layout of the room and the  location  of  the  window  and  also  having

regard to the precarious health condition of the plaintiff  on  the  day  of

the incident (he was running high fever), it was not possible to accept  the

contention of the defendant that the plaintiff had  himself  jumped  out  of

the window resulting  in  the  injuries  sustained.=

 

The maxim res ipsa loquitur in its classic form  has  been  stated  by

Erle C.J.

 

      (1)   “……..where the thing is shown to be under the management of  the

           defendant or his servants, 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 explanation by the defendants, that the  accident

           arose from want of care.”[1]

 

 

      The maxim applies to a case in  which  certain  facts  proved  by  the

plaintiff, by itself, would call  for  an  explanation  from  the  defendant

without the plaintiff having  to  allege  and  prove  any  specific  act  or

omission of the defendant.

 

9.    In Shyam Sunder and Others vs. The State of Rajasthan[2] it  has  been

explained that the principal function of the maxim is to  prevent  injustice

which would result if the plaintiff was invariably  required  to  prove  the

precise cause of the accident when the relevant facts  are  unknown  to  him

but are within the knowledge of the defendant.  It was also  explained  that

the doctrine would apply to a situation  when  the  mere  happening  of  the

accident is more consistent with the negligence of the defendant  than  with

other causes.=

 On a consideration of the facts of the present  case  we  do

not find any error in the application of the principle of res ipsa  loquitur

to the present case.  In so far as the findings of  negligence  and  absence

of due care of the defendant is concerned, we are  of  the  view  that  such

findings being concurrent  findings  of  fact  the  same  ought  not  to  be

reopened by us in the appeal filed by the defendant-hospital  under  Article

136 of the Constitution.  Any such exercise would  be  wholly  inappropriate

to the extraordinary and highly discretionary jurisdiction  vested  in  this

Court  by  the  Constitution.  Even  otherwise,  we  do  not  find  anything

inherently improbable or outrageously illogical in the  conclusions  reached

by the learned Trial Judge as affirmed in appeal.  The appeals filed by  the

defendant-hospital are, therefore, dismissed.

 

11.   Insofar as the quantum of compensation is concerned,  we  are  of  the

view that the three broad heads considered by the Division Bench  for  award

of damages are sufficiently representative of the claim  of  the  plaintiff.

The precise quantum of compensation that should  be  awarded  in  any  given

case  cannot  and,  in  fact,  need  not  be  determined  with  mathematical

exactitude or arithmetical precision.   So  long  the  compensation  awarded

broadly represents what could be the entitlement of a claimant in any  given

case the discretion  vested  in  the  trial  court  and  the  regular  first

appellate court ought not to be lightly  interfered.   Taking  into  account

the facts before us and having regard to the basis  on  which  damages  have

been awarded, we do not  consider  the  same  to  be  either  inadequate  or

inappropriate so as to justify interference.  Accordingly, the appeal  filed

by the plaintiff is also dismissed.

 

12.  Consequently and in the light of the aforegoing discussions, both  sets

of appeals are dismissed.

 

2014 ( April.Part ) judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41442

P SATHASIVAM, RANJAN GOGOI, N.V. RAMANA

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4010 OF 2010
ASHISH KUMAR MAZUMDAR … APPELLANT (S)

VERSUS
AISHI RAM BATRA CHARITABLE
HOSPITAL TRUST & ORS. … RESPONDENT (S)

WITH

CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 4011-4012 of 2010
J U D G M E N T

RANJAN GOGOI, J.
1. Suit No. 3413 of 1991 filed by one Ashish Kumar Mazumdar (hereinafter
referred to as ‘the plaintiff’) was decreed by a learned Single Judge of
the High Court of Delhi awarding a sum of Rs. 7 lakhs with interest @ 12%
per annum on account of damages for injuries suffered by the plaintiff
while undergoing treatment in the Batra Hospital, Delhi. The aforesaid
judgment and decree passed on 02.12.2008 was challenged in appeal before
the Division Bench of the High Court by the defendant in the suit i.e. the
trust managing the hospital (hereinafter referred to as ‘the defendant’).
The plaintiff had also filed a separate appeal challenging the quantum of
damages awarded and seeking enhancement thereof. The Division Bench of the
High Court by a common order dated 23.12.2009 dismissed the appeal filed by
the defendant trust and allowed the appeal filed by the plaintiff enhancing
the amount of damages awarded from Rs. 7 lakhs to Rs. 11 lakhs alongwith
interest @ 12% per annum. Not satisfied, the plaintiff has filed Civil
Appeal No.4010 of 2010, whereas aggrieved by the dismissal of its appeal,
the defendant trust has filed the connected appeals (Civil Appeal Nos. 4011-
4012 of 2010).

2. We have heard Mr. S.B. Upadhyay, learned senior counsel for the
plaintiff and Mr. S.S. Khanjuda, learned counsel for the defendant.

3. According to the plaintiff, he was admitted as an indoor patient in
the Batra Hospital on 27.10.1988 and was lodged in Room No.305 on the third
floor of the hospital. He was running high fever and was in a delirious
state. In the night intervening 31.10.1988 and 01.11.1988, at about 2.20
a.m., the plaintiff’s sister, one Kajal, who was staying with him in the
room had noticed the absence of the plaintiff from the room. She promptly
informed the staff nurse on duty and a search was conducted to trace out
the plaintiff in the course of which a security guard, Hans Raj, found the
plaintiff lying on the ground floor in the oncology gallery of the hospital
and at a distance of 50 yards from a point immediately below the window of
room No. 305. The plaintiff suffered multiple fracture of lumbar vertebrae
with complete dislocation of the spinal cord and despite treatment he
became a paraplegic i.e. 100% disabled below the waist. Though the plaint
is silent on the circumstances in which the injuries were caused or the
manner in which the same were sustained, according to the plaintiff, as at
the time of the incident he was an indoor patient in the hospital it was
the duty and responsibility of the hospital authorities to take care of the
plaintiff who was suffering from high fever and was in a delirious state.
The plaintiff had alleged that it is on account of the absence of due and
reasonable care on the part of the hospital authorities that the incident
could occur disabling the plaintiff for the rest of his life. According to
the plaintiff though the injuries suffered by him had not immediately
affected his employment as a Junior Assistant in Punjab National Bank the
same had severely affected his service prospects. Accordingly, the suit in
question was filed seeking damages to the extent of Rs. 58 lakhs; the
claim, however, was restricted to Rs. 25 lakhs on account of the
plaintiff’s inability to pay the requisite court fee on the rest of the
amount.

4. The defendant trust, in its written statement, took the stand that
the hospital had permitted the plaintiff’s sister to stay in the room as an
attendant and that the plaintiff had himself jumped out of the window of
his room despite the presence of his sister leading to the injuries
suffered. On the said broad facts the defendant denied the allegation of
negligence and absence of due care on its part as claimed by the plaintiff
in the suit.

5. On the basis of the pleadings of the parties, the learned Trial Judge
framed four issues for trial in the suit. Five witnesses including the
plaintiff himself (PW-1), his sister (PW-2) and his brother (PW-3) were
examined. One Dr. R.K. Srivastava (PW-5) was also examined to prove the
disability certificate showing the extent of the disability of the
plaintiff. To controvert the case of the plaintiff, the defendant had
examined one Dr. Arun Dewan (DW-1) who had treated the plaintiff and the
security guard Hans Raj (DW-2) who had found the plaintiff in an injured
state.

6. The learned Trial Judge came to the conclusion that, having regard to
the layout of the room and the location of the window and also having
regard to the precarious health condition of the plaintiff on the day of
the incident (he was running high fever), it was not possible to accept the
contention of the defendant that the plaintiff had himself jumped out of
the window resulting in the injuries sustained. On the contrary the
learned Trial Judge came to the conclusion that the facts established by
the evidence on record attracted the principle of res ipsa loquitur and,
therefore, it was for the defendant to prove the absence of any negligence
and due care and attention on its part. Proceeding, the learned Trial
Judge was also of the view that duty of a hospital is not limited to
diagnosis and treatment but extends to looking after the safety and
security of the patients, particularly, those who are sick or under
medication and therefore can become delirious and incoherent. Adverting to
the facts before him, the learned Judge took the view that it is evident
that in the present case the plaintiff, who was suffering from high fever,
had gone out for a stroll in the middle of the night being unable to sleep.
His absence from the room on being noticed by his sister (PW-2) a search
was organized and the plaintiff was found lying on the ground floor in the
oncology gallery of the hospital with the injuries in question. On the
said basis, the learned Trial Judge concluded that, in the present case,
the hospital should be held liable for not maintaining the necessary vigil
in the hospital premises to ensure the safety of its patients and it is on
account of the absence of such vigil that the plaintiff, despite his poor
health, was able to walk around and in the process had sustained the
injuries in question. So far as the quantum of damages is concerned, the
learned Trial Judge quantified the same at Rs.7 lakhs along with interest
at 12% per annum thereon.

7. In appeal, the Division Bench reiterated the findings recorded by the
learned Trial Judge holding the same to be justified in the totality of the
facts proved in the case. Additionally, the Division Bench was of the view
that the plaintiff was entitled to a total amount of Rs.11 lakhs by way of
damages which was quantified in the following manner :

|(i) |For loss of future prospects in |Rs. 4,00,000.00 |
| |employment | |
|(ii) |For keeping an attendant |Rs. 4,00,000.00 |
|(iii) |For non-pecuniary loss including |Rs. 3,00,000.00 |
| |pain and suffering, loss of limb | |
| |etc. | |

 

The aforesaid amount of damages was directed to carry interest @ 12%
from the date of filing of the suit i.e. 29.10.1991.

8. The maxim res ipsa loquitur in its classic form has been stated by
Erle C.J.

(1) “……..where the thing is shown to be under the management of the
defendant or his servants, 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 explanation by the defendants, that the accident
arose from want of care.”[1]
The maxim applies to a case in which certain facts proved by the
plaintiff, by itself, would call for an explanation from the defendant
without the plaintiff having to allege and prove any specific act or
omission of the defendant.

9. In Shyam Sunder and Others vs. The State of Rajasthan[2] it has been
explained that the principal function of the maxim is to prevent injustice
which would result if the plaintiff was invariably required to prove the
precise cause of the accident when the relevant facts are unknown to him
but are within the knowledge of the defendant. It was also explained that
the doctrine would apply to a situation when the mere happening of the
accident is more consistent with the negligence of the defendant than with
other causes.

10. We have considered the case of the respective parties and the
evidence adduced in support thereof; the judgment under appeal as well as
the view taken by the learned Trial Judge besides the arguments and
contentions advanced before us. The learned courts have applied the
principle of res ipsa loquitur to the present case to cast the burden of
proving that there was no negligence on the defendant. Thereafter, the
learned Trial Judge as well as the Division Bench of the High Court has
held the defendant liable for negligence and failure to take due care of
the plaintiff who was an indoor patient in the hospital. The aforesaid
conclusions reached is on an elaborate consideration of the evidence and
materials on record and after a detailed discussion of the stand of the
rival parties. On a consideration of the facts of the present case we do
not find any error in the application of the principle of res ipsa loquitur
to the present case. In so far as the findings of negligence and absence
of due care of the defendant is concerned, we are of the view that such
findings being concurrent findings of fact the same ought not to be
reopened by us in the appeal filed by the defendant-hospital under Article
136 of the Constitution. Any such exercise would be wholly inappropriate
to the extraordinary and highly discretionary jurisdiction vested in this
Court by the Constitution. Even otherwise, we do not find anything
inherently improbable or outrageously illogical in the conclusions reached
by the learned Trial Judge as affirmed in appeal. The appeals filed by the
defendant-hospital are, therefore, dismissed.

11. Insofar as the quantum of compensation is concerned, we are of the
view that the three broad heads considered by the Division Bench for award
of damages are sufficiently representative of the claim of the plaintiff.
The precise quantum of compensation that should be awarded in any given
case cannot and, in fact, need not be determined with mathematical
exactitude or arithmetical precision. So long the compensation awarded
broadly represents what could be the entitlement of a claimant in any given
case the discretion vested in the trial court and the regular first
appellate court ought not to be lightly interfered. Taking into account
the facts before us and having regard to the basis on which damages have
been awarded, we do not consider the same to be either inadequate or
inappropriate so as to justify interference. Accordingly, the appeal filed
by the plaintiff is also dismissed.

12. Consequently and in the light of the aforegoing discussions, both sets
of appeals are dismissed.
……………………………CJI.
[P. SATHASIVAM]
………………………………J.
[RANJAN GOGOI]

………….……………………J.
[N.V. RAMANA]

NEW DELHI,
APRIL 22, 2014.
———————–
[1] Scott v. London & St. Katherine Docks, (1865) 3 H & C 596, 601
[2] 1974 (1) SCC 690

———————–
7

 

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